Saturday, 15 April 2017

DDO: Open Letter to Ministry of Environment (Ontario) (Hon. G.Murray, re aquifer cap)

A screenshot of one of my four Debian GNU/Linux desktops, with the four photos mentioned in my below-quoted e-mail to the provincial Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Also shown are operations clocks (green for local civil time, red for UTC), plus two /usr/bin/xterm "glass teletype"windows. The windows are configured to display partial directory listings from my DDO cyber archive. - As always with blogger, an enlarged view of this screenshot may be obtained with a left mouse-click. 

Revision History:

20170416T0502Z: Kmo submitted this letter in e-mail to the Hon.  Glen Murray (Minister of the Environment and Climate Change (Ontario)) (, with the attachments ddo_20170330T2034Z____pumping_gear_and_high_water_before_rains.jpg and ddo_20170407T2207Z____pumping_gear_and_higher_water_after_rains.jpg.  A few minutes later, he sent a follow-up e-mail with the attachments ddo_20170330T2035Z____far_bank_of_one_pond_before_rains.jpg and ddo_20170330T2036Z____two_ponds_before_rains.jpg. He cc'd as follows, on both mails: (1) the pertinent municipal authorities,,,,,,,,,; (2) the pertinent provincial authorities,,,,,,, [this is contact form for Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry],; (3) the perinent federal authorities,,,,,; (4) from the team of the aspiring DDO&P subdivision developer, the pertinent authorities,,,; (5) the pertinent environmental-advocacy authorities,; (6) the pertinent media authorities,,,,,,,,,,,, He retained the right to make posible subsequent forward to colleagues in conservation or astrophysics, or to similar parties.

Dear Sir:

1. Preamble, with Legal Background

I write with a respectful formal question for the provincial Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, in relation to the 77-hectare David Dunlap Observatory and Park (DDO&P) in Richmond Hill.

A 72-hectare core of DDO&P dates from the 1930s. An additional 5 hectares was added in the 1950s, yielding the ultimate total of 77 hectares.

In 2008, the University of Toronto sold the total 77 hectares to a developer, "Corsica".  The University proceeded under a legal hypothesis never tested in court - namely, that donor Jessie Donalda Dunlap's 1932-07-30 Deed of Indenture (Township of Markham #20384), with its clause blocking resale, was defective to the point of not now binding the University.

In part in or around 2012, and in part more recently, the Town of Richmond Hill and Corsica agreed to a settlement, or more accurately to a suite of understandings animated by OMB "Minutes of Settlement", whose principal provisions are the following:

  • Corsica is to sell the 1950s 5 hectares to the Town, for park use.  (This sale in fact was made in or around 2012.)
  • Corsica is to donate about 40 hectares of the 1930s 72 hectares to the Town for park use, together with the circa-1935 David Dunlap Observatory Administration Building (with its two telescopes) and the circa-1935 free-standing David Dunlap Observatory principal telescope dome (with its telescope and its other equipment; that telescope remains the largest in Canada).
  • Corsica is to meet the costs of certain reforestation projects on the just-mentioned approximately 40 park-use hectares.
  • Corsica is to retain 32 hectares, of the 1930s 72 hectares, for development into a roughly 520-home subdivision ("Observatory Hill").

The following are additional relevant points of background:

  • I have spent the bulk of my life savings on this DDO&P conservationist casework, to an amount of 500,000 CAD or 550,000 CAD - for the most part at two long OMB hearings, in 2012 and 2014, in support of the Richmond Hill Naturalists. I have taken the view (a) that the entire 77 hectares must be conserved as a park - if necessary, with abandonment by Corsica of its "ObservatoryHill" subdivision project, and with citizen reforestation of that bulldozed 32-hectare terrain -  and (b) that the federal authorities must now argue a case for inclusion of the entire 77-hectare DDO&P on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • Having spent the bulk of my life savings (leaving, however, a cushion against such contingencies as medical maltreatment), I am now too poor to justify the expense of a lawyer.
  • I am prepared to defend myself in court, speaking without a lawyer, if sued or prosecuted.
  • I use the Web, notably (also known as as a vehicle for making the details of the DDO&P case publicly visible. I do this in part as a precaution against a nightmare scenario in which my mild autism renders me temporarily tongue-tied or temporarily panic-stricken when I reluctantly undertake my own advocacy in the courtroom.

Hydrogeology is prominent in the overall DDO&P heritage-conservation case. I have discussed hydrogeology in my blog posting of 2016-08-22 or 2016-08-23 (under the heading "Open Letter re DDO&P Breach-of- Aquifer Question (Town et al)") and in my blog posting of 2016-11-28 or 2016-11-29 (under the heading "DDO&P Sewage-Works Stormwater Facility: Queries for Province and Town, and Suggestions for Residents"). Your team will now want to make careful reference to this pair of 2016 blog postings - carefully noting also the citation, in the second posting in this pair, of the community-newspaper article (Richmond Hill Liberal, 2016-11-16, under headline "Richmond Hill neighbours furious with David Dunlap land developer's 'mountain'").

Previous hydrogeology correspondence from me to the Hon. Bill Mauro was forwarded by the Minister to you, as the Hon. Bill Mauro kindly told me in an undated papermail now in my private archive. The envelope of the Minister's papermail to me is franked 2016-10-06. The Minister was responding to my blogged concerns from 2016-08-22 or 2016-08-23.

2. Fresh Development in DDO&P Hydrogeology Casework

I, and I think some others in the wider public, continue worrying about DDO&P hydrogeology. The 32-hectare subdivision-construction site is looking more heavily watered than one would expect in even a wet spring. I for my part am wondering, as I did around both 2016-08-22/2016-08-23 and 2016-11-28/2016-11-29, whether the Oak Ridges Moraine aquifer cap has been damaged.

Your specialists might appreciate having from me two photographs which I attach to this present e-mail, under filenames

* ddo_20170330T2034Z____pumping_gear_and_high_water_before_rains.jpg
* ddo_20170407T2207Z____pumping_gear_and_higher_water_after_rains.jpg.

I took the first of these on 2017-03-30 (THU), in the first few minutes of the first of two major spring-of-2017 storms. I timed my photograph to avoid the storm-induced rise in the level of the various "Observatory Hill" subdivision ponds. But it shows, disturbingly, a water level already high (and also shows what I believe to be pumping gear, run by the Corsica team; I found this same gear in clearly audible operation during my most recent sidewalk reconnaissance, in the early evening of 2017-04-14 (FRI)).

I took the second of these two photographs on 2017-04-07 (FRI), some hours after the second of the two major spring-of-2017 storms had ended.  This photograph is chiefly instructive for what it dos **NOT** show: the level of water is higher than in the first photograph, as is to be expected from the severity of the storms, and yet is **NOT** dramatically higher. The (only modest) difference in water levels might perhaps suggest that part of the water is coming not from precipitation but from a damaged aquifer cap.

I would now be grateful if you could allay possible public anxiety by investigating, and by advising me of the results of your investigation. I would therefore like to ask your Ministry, formally:

Does your Ministry have a current opinion on the status of the Oak Ridges Moraine aquifer cap at DDO&P (damaged? undamaged?); and if so, then on what evidentiary basis has that Ministry opinion been reached?

I would imagine that it will take your team a few weeks to answer my formal question in a fashion sufficiently thorough to allay public anxiety. I would imagine that answering would involve calling on some kind of expertise, whether from within an Ontario Ministry or in some kind of liaison with the appropriate experts in the Town of Richmond Hill, and consuming something like a half person-day of engineering time.

I would respectfully suggest that a satisfactory answer would now involve something more than what we have had in the past, namely an assurance from Corsica itself.  An assurance from Corsica is one kind of evidence; but an independent site inspection, by some municipal or provincial engineer, is  more reassuring, and indeed is in my respectful submission the kind of evidence for which we, the voting and taxpaying public, must now press.

I will be making a diary note to myself to raise this matter again with your Ministry, and blogging about it, in the event that I do not hear from your team by UTC=20170519T235959Z (the evening of the third Friday in May). But do please have your team alert me if my proposed scheduling is a little too tight.

If the aquifer cap has indeed been damaged, we will all have to think about remedies - for example, about the possible feasibility of a ministerial stop-order on the "Observatory Hill" subdivision.  At this point, however, we should get the facts, drawing on engineering expertise from outside Corsica.

I have tonight published this present e-mail from me to you at Unless instructed otherwise, I propose to serve the interest of government transparency by publishing any relevant incoming correspondence, whether from you or from any other parties (including Corsica itself), on that same blog server.

As minor supplementary background, I will in a subsequent e-mail tonight send you also two photographs of perhaps lesser hydrogeological interest, whose titles are self-explanatory:

* ddo_20170330T2035Z____far_bank_of_one_pond_before_rains.jpg
* ddo_20170330T2036Z____two_ponds_before_rains.jpg

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance, for instance by taking further sidewalk photographs for your team.


Toomas Karmo

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