A grassroots citizens’ group is taking a proactive stance to try to ensure a proposed wind farm project for their area doesn’t negatively impact their ground water.
Kevin Jakubec, spokesperson for Water Wells First! said people living in rural areas rely on ground water and their drinking wells “underpin our ability to live in the countryside.”
Jakubec said the group formed after learning some landowners in Dover Township have been dealing with water issues caused by vibrations from the installation and ongoing operation of the East St. Clair Wind Farm.
The North Kent 1 Wind Project, which calls for 40-50 wind turbines to be constructed to the east, primarily in Chatham Township, has raised concerns among some residents that the vibrations from this wind farm could also result in dirty, turbid water in their drinking wells.
Water Wells First! held a media event at the Countryview Line farm of Scott Brooksbank on Wednesday to raise awareness about this issue.
Brooksbank said the farm has been in his family since 1869 and the water is more pure than spring water.
Noting the group is not opposed to renewable energy, Brooksbank said, “I just don’t want our wells compromised.”
The Daily News contacted Pattern Energy, a partner in the North Kent Wind project, for comment, but did not get a response.
The Daily News received an e-mail response from the Canadian Wind Energy Association about this issue.
Jean-François Nolet, vice-president of policy and communications, said the CanWEA is committed to working working collaboratively on the sustainable development of wind energy.
“While turbidity has not been an issue raised with the Canadian Wind Energy Association in the past, we take all concerns raised seriously,” Nolet said in the e-mail. “CanWEA and the wind energy industry will continue to work closely with communities, as well as with regulatory agencies, to ensure wind energy developments are constructed and operated in a responsible and sustainable manner, respecting both the community and the local environment.”
Jakubec said the hydrogeology of this region features a shallow bedrock floor with only 50-70 feet of soil above it before it gets to the sand layer, which is where the ground water comes from.
He noted there a two issues with wind turbines and they have a common denominator – vibration.
The first, he said, is the vibration during the construction phase if a pile-type of foundation is used for the turbines.
“You’re pounding into that aquifer layer – that sand layer – and the vibrations can travel quite some distance,” he said.
“Our wells, because it’s so shallow here, they’re very sensitive to the kind of vibration damage,” he added.
Jakubec said there is also phenomena called seismic coupling, adding it was identified by the wind industry in 2005 in Scotland.
“It showed a wind farm could shed vibrations into the local ground,” he said.
Jakubec said the group plans ask the developers of the North Kent 1 project and “all wind developments on the Kettle Point formation, which runs up to Sarnia and over to Grand Bend . .. that they take care and consider that, because of the sensitivity.”
He said they would like to see vibration suppression technology used when the North Kent 1 project is constructed. He added if an area’s ground water source is sensitive to pile driving, they would like to see developers use “spread foot” type of foundations, as well as put in ground water and vibration monitoring system.
Jakubec said there also needs to be a proper compensation contract with residents in the event their water quality is adversely affected.
Ken Wade, a long-time well driller and member of the Ontario Ground Water Association, said he has received calls from Dover Township landowners whose wells “started going dirty” and they wanted to know what the problem was.
He said the “wind mills vibrate right down to the rock, right through our aquifer, it keeps the sand moving.”
Wade said anytime there was an earthquake in eastern Ontario or Quebec or New York State, “I’d get calls from people having dirty wells, dirty water.”
He added, “once the vibrations quit and everything settles down, you’re back into clear water again.”
Wade said people are continuing to see this issue in Dover because of the vibrations from the wind turbines, which keeps the sand moving.
Brooksbank said the group will be encouraging landowners who could be impacted by the North Kent Wind 1 to have their water tested before, during and after construction of the project so they have a baseline for the quality of their water.
“Our aquifer is the most important resource that we have,” Brooksbank said.
Nolet noted the power sector is one of the world’s largest consumers of water.
“Therefore a shift from conventional forms of thermal sources of power towards renewable technologies such as clean wind energy, which does not require water to operate, will reduce the demand we place on our water resource,” he said.
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