Home News Tensions mount at JFK Quarry  

Tensions mount at JFK Quarry  

Protestor Willma Lahache (centre) yelled at truck drivers entering and exiting the quarry. Eve Cable The Eastern Door

Two sides faced off outside JFK Quarry on Tuesday morning. On one side, at the quarry entrance, stood a crowd of around 15 protestors, bearing handmade signs with slogans like “No More Toxic Stone Dust!” On the other, across the busy Route 207, stood quarry owner Frank McComber, who said that his business isn’t causing contamination in the area. 

Peacekeepers remained present between both parties, keeping a watchful eye for escalation.  

“I have great-nieces, great-nephews that are coming, and we have the faces yet to come. We have to protect our mother, the Earth,” said community member Patty Stacey, who came out to protest.  

“Come to the table and talk to the people, on the land. Come outside and talk. Let’s resolve it. Anything can be resolved. Enough poisoning our people, it’s got to stop,” she said. “That’s all I can say, over and over again. It’s very sad that it’s come to this.” 

But McComber said that he’s yet to receive a request to talk from the group. 

Kerry Diabo and Katsitsaha:wi McComber-Diabo face off with JFK Quarry owner Frank McComber on Tuesday morning. 

“No one has given us any kind of written complaint. No one has talked to us about what specifically they’re mad at,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff put on Facebook. There’s no facts behind any of this information.” 

Stacey and her fellow protestors were at the quarry to voice their concerns about air and water quality, which they say are a result of activities at JFK quarry, which produces crushed stone, concrete, and, since July 2022, asphalt.  

The protests were organized by Kerry Diabo and his wife Katsitsaha:wi McComber-Diabo, who live next to the quarry. They said that their children have suffered from rashes that doctors have been unable to determine the cause of, as well as ongoing coughs. They also said that other adults who live by the quarry have suffered similar rashes, as well as nosebleeds, which they fear could be a result of pollutants in the area.  

“I hope that we make a lasting impression on the community and on outside people, anybody who’s willing to hear our concerns about the safety of our children, the pollution, everything,” McComber-Diabo said.  

But McComber said that the health issues McComber-Diabo is complaining of can’t be a result of the quarry practices. He said that it’s mandatory to have the water tested multiple times a year to ensure that it’s contamination free, and that he’s also paid for air quality and odour testing, which he said confirms that though the asphalt production releases odour, it’s not contaminating the air. 

“We’re not hiding anything,” McComber said. “They keep mentioning we’re hiding stuff, but it’s 2024 – I’m not sure it’s even possible to hide stuff anymore.” 

Diabo tested water and air samples near the quarry with the assistance of grassroots organization Research for the Front Lines (R4FL), who provide pro bono research services in support of communities fighting for environmental justice. 

The groundwater samples, taken from three wells in the area, showed manganese levels of 0.88 mg/l, significantly above the Health Canada guidelines, which say a maximum of 0.12 mg/l is safe, as high levels can damage the lungs, liver, and kidneys.  

However, more testing needs to be done to say why that number is elevated, as it could be due to a number of sources, including from rock naturally found in the environment, the quarry itself, or other historic human activities in the area, according to the summary report by R4FL. 

Professor Kevin J. Wilkinson, who is a researcher that volunteers his services with R4FL and who analysed the data in his lab, said that more testing would give more answers about what’s happening in the area. 

“Manganese is certainly a metal that can come from contamination. It can be an indicator of steel production or other processes, but it’s also a metal that’s found in some natural waters, especially when there’s not much oxygen,” he said.  

“It’s really hard to say one way or another that that’s definitely contamination.” 

McComber refuted the idea that the increased manganese levels are a result of the quarry. 

“We have manganese all over our community. Our community’s been landfilled over the last 70 years. And so we have a lot of manganese everywhere,” he said.  

One air sample was also tested as part of the research conducted with R4FL. It showed indications of road dust and other particulate matter from burning of metals, but since there is only one sample, no specific source can be determined. 

“It’s very early to be able to say anything, but it’s definitely not too early to say that there’s concerning evidence coming out of the testing so far that definitely points to the need for more research and more testing in order to be able to identify the sources and the extent of the levels,” said Jen Gobby, R4FL’s research coordinator.  

Marcia MacDonald, also a research coordinator at R4FL, said that the results are a first step in what could be a thorough investigation. 

“Sometimes really deep investigations are needed to understand the full range of what’s released in the air,” she said.  

At the protest on Tuesday, Diabo said he was angry at the lack of answers.  

“We’re being allowed to be poisoned through the industrialization of our community,” he said. “Our elders are being affected, our children are being affected, our minds are being affected. We have heavy metals, including manganese and others to be investigated for the source of, and we’re allowed to live with contaminated water.” 

The protest remained tense throughout. According to Peacekeepers spokesperson Kyle Zachary, there was an altercation between protestors and a JFK representative that didn’t escalate past yelling – statements were made, but there were no charges requested or pending. 

Diabo said that he hadn’t received communication from JFK, and McComber said that he hadn’t received communication from protestors.  

He said he is still willing to speak with them, and that the quarry has decided to host an open house on Monday, May 6, which will be open to the entire community.  

“I have no ill will against any of (the protestors). If they want to reach out and someone wants to do a tour that’s part of the group, I don’t mind giving them a tour. I’m just not going to go somewhere and get yelled at.” 

Diabo said he intends to continue with further testing of water and air in the area. Many in the group also said they intend to continue protesting at the quarry. McComber said the quarry will publicize more details about the open house in the weeks. 

evedcable@gmail.com 

This article was originally published in print on April 12 in issue 33.15 of The Eastern Door.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.