Water Wells First continues to battle on two fronts – the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and Ministry of Environment and Climate Change – over its concerns about the impact wind turbines are and will have on area water wells.
An information picket was held at the Civic Centre on Wednesday by the grassroots community group to let the public know about the issues that have been seen with some water wells in Dover, which is blamed on vibrations from wind turbines in the area. The group also fears this will have the same impact on the North Kent 1 Wind Project currently under construction in the Chatham Township area.
The crux of their worries is that the steel piles used to anchor the industrial wind turbines are driven into the bedrock, which is Kettle Point black shale, known to contain heavy metals such as arsenic and uranium, known to be hazardous to human health.
Some Dover water wells have been producing turbid, sediment filled water that affected landowners no longer use.
Water Wells First spokesperson Kevin Jakubec said from testing done on some Dover water wells, “we have found Kettle Point black shale from three microns in size all the up to 700 microns in size.”
When asked if the pile driving that has begun in the North Kent 1 project has produced any signs of trouble in wells, he said, “not yet, but this is something that can take some time to show up.”
He said the citizen group wants both the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and MOECC to test and confirm their findings in Dover.
Jakubec said the MOECC hasn't tested and confirmed the presence of Kettle Point black shale in water wells, despite being asked more than a month ago by Water Wells First.
“If the ministry of environment won't test and confirm our findings, will the municipality, who purports to care about our water security . . . . contribute to testing and confirming the presence of Kettle Point black shale?” he said.
The Daily News contacted the municipality and MOECC about this issue to ask if it is obligated do its own testing to confirm the presence of this black shale?
“The MOECC is aware that naturally occurring shale underlies the area of the Kettle Point Formation and the aquifer used by private wells in the area rests on this bedrock,” stated an e-mail response from the MOECC. “The groundwater has historically flown through an aquifer made up, in part, of Kettle Point shale granules.”
The response also included a request to contact the municipality for more information on the aquifer.
The Daily News also asked what steps would be taken if MOECC testing confirmed this shale is present?
The MOECC responded that if the company receives a water complaint, they are required to follow a number of steps identified in the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) to address the complaint.
“As part of the ministry's science-based approach, North Kent 1 was required to conduct well water quality testing prior to wind turbine construction,” the MOECC added. “The company will continue monitoring for vibrations throughout the duration of the construction phase, as outlined in an approved vibration monitoring plan.”
The Daily News contacted the municipality to ask if it would willing to do its own testing to confirm the group's findings of this black shale in water, but a response hasn't been received.
A media release was issued prior to the information picket at the Civic Centre, in which Mayor Randy Hope stated: “The Municipality of Chatham-Kent continues to be at the very forefront of addressing concerns of water quality for residents throughout the municipality.”
He noted, despite repeated requests from the municipality, Water Wells First has yet to provide any scientific evidence which links water quality to wind farm development.
“We see jars of water with sediment but there has been nothing brought to the municipality that indicates there is any connection,” Hope said. “If there is any evidence, the group needs to bring it forward to the authorities.”
Jakubec responded: “The municipality has put the burden of proof and all the scientific evidence on us for water quality.”
He asked if Chatham-Kent would be willing to put up some funding to share the cost of installing a seismic pit sensor that could monitor vibrations of the entire North Kent 1 project.
Jakubec said given that the municipality has put up nearly $8 million of taxpayers' money to invest in the North Kent 1 project, “what's the big deal of putting up $100,000 or $200,000” to pay for a seismic pit sensor?
How the MOECC is allowing the company to conduct vibration monitoring for the project by having two vibration monitors at the surface is raising major concerns with Water Wells First.
Jakubec said the seismologist working with the group says “that's useless,” adding that when doing a proper seismic study, you need to put the sensor on top of the area of concern.
“That would be on the surface of the bedrock floor in the aquifer sand layer,” he said.
“What we see is a junk science approach taken by the ministry of environment,” Jakubec said, adding he has filed a public complaint with the MOECC, which is a condition allowed under the REA for the project.
The Daily News also asked the MOECC about this issue.
The ministry responded that the company undertook test pile driving vibration monitoring at various locations, including at the bedrock surface, ground surface and at select off-site water wells.
“The company also monitored water quality for any impact during the pile driving near these wells,” the MOECC stated. “Vibration data collected from the test pile driving helped the ministry make the informed decision to allow the company to proceed to the construction phase of the project.”
The MOECC added the approved plan will include vibration monitoring at domestic wells within each cluster while pile driving is occurring.
“This approach, in conjunction with monitoring well water quality at select locations will thoroughly assess the potential impacts of vibration on groundwater quality,” the ministry stated.