November 12, 2023

To: Chair Lehman and District Councillors
District of Municipality of Muskoka
70 Pine Street
Bracebridge, ON P1L 1N3

RE: District Council Meeting, November 20, 2023
Agenda Item on Official Plan of the Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML)


Mr. Chair and District Councillors:

Being unable to delegate to the above meeting, I am herein submitting factual human health information that is highly relevant to the District’s consideration of the TML Official plan provisions for New Mineral Aggregate Operations.



Action proposed by the District to decrease to 500 metres the minimum distance from new mineral aggregate operations to waterfront shoreline areas, would seriously increase the risk posed by fine particulate matter (“dust”) from aggregate operations to human respiratory systems (lungs), particularly those of children.

Factual Considerations

1. The Source of the Problem

  • Aggregate operations release large quantities of fine particulate matter (“dust”) into the air.
  • Many of these particulates are of such a small size that they are difficult to capture, travel for long distances (100’s of kilometres) in the air, and penetrate deeply into the lungs.

2. Human Health Impacts

  • Since about 1955, the evidence for serious human health impacts from fine particulates has grown steadily – each new study indicating that they are more serious than previously understood. Some of the world-leading work in this field was done here in Ontario.
  • Health impacts of fine particulates include premature death, hospitalization, respiratory distress, heart attacks and other impacts that are key contributors to $ billions in health system costs each year in Ontario alone (ref. Ontario Medical Association, 2005).
  • Children are more at risk from fine particulates due to their physiology, status of development and their likelihood of being outdoors and physically active for long hours, especially at a cottage during summer.
  • The increase in childhood asthma is well known. Though the reasons for this are not well understood, air pollution, including particulates, likely plays a role.

3. Mitigation Possibilities

  • Most fine particulate emissions from aggregate operations are in the form of “fugitive” emissions, which means that they cannot reasonably be expected to be collected. Such emissions would normally include those from blasting, crushing, materials processing, loading and trucking. They are thus difficult to treat in the way that emissions from a smokestack can be treated to remove particulates. Fugitive emissions can in some cases be reduced, for example by water sprays on crushers or road surfaces. However, performance limits on such efforts are extremely difficult to monitor and enforce. As a result, substantial fine particulate emissions are virtually inevitable from aggregate operations.
  • The Province may apply point of impingement standards to determine if air quality standards are likely to be met at the quarry operation boundary. These however have a number of significant limitations and drawbacks.
  • From the above considerations, the only practical way to greatly reduce the health impact of fugitive emissions is to locate the source at substantial distance from human populations, and most notably from children.

Relationship to Township of Muskoka Lakes Official Plan

  • In consideration of the nature of fine particulate matter, there is likely no practical safe distance for a quarry operation from humans, notably children. However, a distance of 500 metres is, in my opinion, far too close to be considered as adequately protective of human health, particularly with respect to children. Permitting a new quarry is the occasion when it is possible to locate them as far away as reasonably possible from human habitation. (Existing quarries are not the subject of this letter)
  • Other than provisions for locating a new quarry a minimum distance from waterfront areas, there are no provisions and wording in the Township of Muskoka Lakes Official Plan (nor the District of Muskoka Official Plan) that are adequately protective of human health from the effects of fine particulate matter.
  • The only practical option for protecting human health from quarry dust is clear imperative direction such as, for example, “no facility [meeting this description] shall be located within 2000 metres of waterfront areas”.


In consideration of the human health impacts of fine particulate matter from mineral aggregate operations, particularly on children, I strongly recommend that the District Municipality of Muskoka does not in any way impede the Township of Muskoka Lakes from requiring as large a distance as possible between Waterfront Areas and new mineral aggregate operations. In no case should this distance be less than 2000 metres.


I am aware of rationale that may be put forward alleging that recommendations such as the above are impractical. I do not believe this to be the case and am prepared to discuss this further if requested.


Respectfully submitted,

Geoff Ross



MSc. Human Physiology (1976), University of Toronto, Faculty of Medial Sciences

Retired Professional Engineer, after a career primarily with Environment Canada, dealing with air pollution control, including:

  • represented Environment Canada as an expert witness in provincial environmental assessment hearings;
  • member of Canada-U.S. Air Quality Accord negotiating team;
  • represented Canada on United Nations Task Force;

All of the above dealt with air emissions in the context of their associated health impacts



November 15, 2023

District Municipality of Muskoka 70 Pine Street
Bracebridge, ON
P1L 1N3

Attention: District Council

Dear Chair Lehman and Members of Council:

Re: November 20, 2023 Council Meeting – Approval of Township of Muskoka Lakes Official Plan

A number of community associations and groups, including the Muskoka Lakes Association, the Friends of Muskoka, the Muskoka Small Lakes Coalition and the Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization, as well as many concerned constituents, have worked with the Township of Muskoka Lakes (“TML” or “the Township”) over the past four years to assist in the development of their new Official Plan (“OP”). The process at the Township level was exhaustive, lengthy and enjoyed extensive participation by individual constituents, lake associations, business interests and other interested parties. The Township adopted policies in its OP that recognize its lakes and waterways as key to its economic growth and wellbeing and prioritized language to protect them.

Approval of TML’s Official Plan, passed by the Township Council in October 2023, will be considered for approval at the District Council meeting on November 20, 2023. We are submitting this letter as a follow-up to our letter on November 13 , now that we have seen District staff’s report.

In short, we are asking Council to approve the aggregates policy K4 in TML’s Official Plan in the form approved by TML Council, without the modifications proposed by District staff. District staff’s proposed modifications to the aggregates policy K4 are shown in purple on pages 200 – 201 of TML’s OP here. We ask that you not approve the proposed changes so the Township is able to proceed with the important work around drafting by-laws in order that the full effect of the OP can come into force.

TML OP’s Two Limitations on New Aggregate Operations

There are two key features of TML’s OP dealing with the creation of new aggregate operations that we expect will be topics of discussion in the November 20, 2023 Council meeting.

  • Firstly, the OP calls for a 2km buffer between a water body and a new aggregate operation.
  • Secondly the OP calls for a new aggregate operation to be in close proximity to a provincial highway, and this is defined as being no more than 10km.

The 2km buffer has been enshrined in TML’s OP for a long time. We see no need or reason to change this long standing policy that has served the Township well. The Township’s new OP adopts a precautionary approach to guide development decisions. The growing body of evidence of the harmful effects of aggregate operations, including issues around noise, air quality, dust, environmental concerns, water quality concerns and community character, all require the precautionary approach be taken when considering a disruptive and large site such as an aggregate operation. We believe the limitations on aggregate operations adopted by TML Council are the precautionary approach.

The need for close proximity to a provincial highway is common sense (traffic concerns, safety concerns, noise concerns, wear and tear on District and Township roads, community character, air quality concerns from dust and exhaust etc), and there needs to be a quantified definition around what close proximity means, otherwise the concept of close proximity becomes meaningless.

TML Council approved these two limitations in order to protect water quality, protect the character of communities, protect the economic driver of the Township and to address the potential air quality issues coming from aggregate operations.

To clarify, the economic success of the Township and arguably the entire District depends on a healthy environment, with clean lakes and natural treed shorelines that entice seasonal and permanent residents to invest and live in Muskoka and attract tourists to the area. These residents and tourists support the retail, accommodation, construction and trades industries in Muskoka and are part of the fabric of the community. Significant aggregate operations that threaten to diminish the experience on the lakes represent a clear threat to Muskoka’s economy.

Draft Provincial Policy Statement

We have had several discussions with District planning staff about the aggregates section of TML’s OP. We understand that in their professional capacity they cannot support prohibiting new aggregate operations within 2km of the waterfront, nor can they support requiring new aggregate operations to be within 10km of a provincial highway. The reasons cited are based on the new draft Provincial Policy Statement (“PPS”) encouraging the proliferation of aggregate operations.

However, we believe it is still open to Council to support TML Council’s decision to adopt limitations on aggregate operations, for the following reasons:

  • Firstly, the new draft PPS is only in draft form at present, and we have no information as to when or even if it will be adopted. It’s very possible the Province may not move quickly on this in light of other development issues that are currently of major concern.
  • Secondly, the PPS enables the District to find the balance between competing interests in a manner that reflects local needs and characteristics. We believe that in the context of Muskoka, this is a pivotol consideration. Muskoka is a jewel in the Province’s crown, and it depends on its unspoiled natural beauty and tranquility for its economic success. Aggregate operations close to the waterfront threaten the quality of the water in our lakes, the air quality in the surrounding communities, the experience of residents and tourists, and the economic base of TML and the District.
  • Thirdly, the language in the new TML OP is consistent with the current PPS, which allows local municipalities to prioritize protection of the environment and important drivers of the local economy. Section of the current PPS states: ‘Extraction shall be undertaken in a manner which minimizes social, economic and environmental impacts”. TML Council has determined that minimizing these impacts in the Township requires aggregate operations to have a 2km buffer from the waterfront, and be no more than 10km from a provincial highway.
  • Lastly, a noted purpose of the District Official Plan (in section A3(b)) is to “implement the Provincial Policy Statement at the District level in a manner that is intended to reflect the Muskoka context to the greatest extent possible while being consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement’. We believe there is no conflict between this provision and the comments and recommendations in this letter.

Economic Cost of Aggregate Operations in Muskoka

Some might put forward the argument for the potential economic benefit that an aggregates operation will bring to the District/Township. We feel this argument is weak at best – more likely not at all supported. Statistics Canada (2021) reports that employment in the aggregate and mining sector makes up only 0.1 per cent of the employment in the District whereas retail trade and accommodation comprise 25.5 per cent of all employment. Further, aggregate operations pay very low property taxes. And relative to the marginal costs incurred by the municipality/district for road repair and maintenance, even many years of property taxes paid by an aggregate operation won’t resurface even a few km’s of roadway. This leads to a basic unfairness relative to other taxpayers in the municipality who will be paying the freight for inevitably higher road maintenance and resurfacing costs that these operations bring. It also could be viewed as an example of a municipality subsidizing a provincial policy directive, if “close proximity” is not contained to be a quantifiable and reasonable distance.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments.


Susan Eplett
Muskoka Lakes Association

Laurie Thomson President,
Friends of Muskoka

Jeff Crocker
Skeleton Lake Cottagers Organization

Mark Scarrow Muskoka Small Lakes Coalition

Cc: Amy Back, District Clerk
Lisa Marden, Director of Planning, District of Muskoka
Elizabeth Purcell, Manager of Planning, District of Muskoka
Derrick Hammond, Chief Administrative Officer, Township of Muskoka Lakes
David Pink, Director of Development and Environmental Sustainability, Township of Muskoka Lakes



November 12, 2023

To Chair Lehman and Councillors, District of Muskoka Council

My name is Tom Newman, and I am sending this letter on behalf of my client, Ross Earl, a longtime resident of the Township of Muskoka Lakes (4232 Aspdin Road, Utterson, P0B1M0).

Mr. Earl is very concerned about proposed changes to the wording of a policy in Section K4 (Mineral Aggregates) of the draft Official Plan for the Township of Muskoka Lakes. The policy changes, proposed by District of Muskoka Staff, would remove the prohibition on the establishment of new aggregate operations within 2 km of the Waterfront Area. The current TML Official Plan includes a policy (Section E, Rural 14.2) stating that, “New rock crushing operations shall be limited to areas farther than two kilometres from the Waterfront designation.”, and this policy has been in effect for many years.

Mr. Earl owns Waterfront property on Lambert’s Lake, a small, pristine lake, close to his home, and since 2017 he has been fighting to stop the Lippa quarry application that would establish a new quarry less than 700 metres from the Lambert’s Lake, Waterfront Area. In a 2019 LPAT hearing, Mr. Earl used the existing 2-km policy as a key piece of evidence in his efforts to block the Lippa application. However, if the 2-km policy is modified, as proposed by District Staff, then it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for someone like Ross Earl to protect his waterfront property in this way. Mr. Earl is a retired school teacher, with a limited income, and he does not have the financial resources to hire the lawyers and consultants, who would be needed to contest an application, without this current policy.

At the TML Planning Committee Meeting on September 14, Mayor Kelley and the TML Councillors voted to reject modifications to the 2-km policy, as proposed by District Staff. Despite this fact, District of Muskoka Planning Staff continue to insist that the 2-km policy must be changed because it doesn’t comply with the the Provincial Policy Statement, citing policies in Section 2.5 (Mineral Aggregates), such as the following, “As much of the mineral aggregate resources as is realistically possible shall be made available as close to markets as possible.” However, these same Planners have chosen to ignore other policies in the PPS that support the inclusion of the 2-km policy in the new OP. For example, in Section 1.7 (Long Term Economic Prosperity), there is a policy stating that, “Longterm economic prosperity should be supported by … providing opportunities for sustainable tourism development.” In the Township of Muskoka Lakes, it could be argued that preventing aggregate operations within 2 km of Waterfront Areas is consistent with ‘providing opportunities for sustainable tourism development.’ Tourists don’t come to the Township of Muskoka Lakes to see the quarries and to hear the gravel trucks, rather, they come to experience the beautiful lakes and their watersheds.

Ross Earl and his wife, Sylvia, love living in the Township of Muskoka Lakes, and they are determined to do their part to protect Lambert’s Lake and the other Muskoka Lakes for future generations. Please support them by voting against proposed changes to Section K4 in the draft TML Official Plan that would weaken the existing policy that prohibits new aggregate operations within 2 km of Waterfront Areas.


Tom Newman (agent for Ross Earl)