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Environmentalist says groundwater worries valid

The impact of wind turbines on groundwater again became an issue at a public meeting held Wednesday in regard to the Otter Creek Wind Farm proposal north of Wallaceburg.

And a local environmentalist said those concerns are valid.

“It’s a legitimate concern,” said Kris Lee, chair of the Wallaceburg Advisory Team for a Cleaner Habitat (WATCH).

Lee said there are jurisdictions outside of Ontario that have guidelines regarding wind turbines and their impact on groundwater.

Residents in the former Dover Township have recently came forward with complaints of dirty water in their wells, which they say is due to wind turbines. Lee said she gives credit to those residents for taking a stand and making their views known to the Ontario Ministry of Environment.

“The ministry is not really tuned in to turbidity issue with the wells at all,” Lee said. “I think that Keven (Jakubec) and his group (Water Wells First) is educating the ministry on this. I am so proud of them because this is going provincial now. Their movement is taking off all across Ontario.”

Wednesday’s public meeting was to gather comments on the Otter Creek project, which could include as many as 19 turbines. It was one of five wind farm projects approved by the province earlier this year.

The project would have generating capacity of up to 50MW and is bounded by Stewart Line and McCreary Line to the south, Whitebread Line and Kent Line (west of Mandaumin Road) to the north, Mandaumin Road to the east and Payne Road to the west.

Chatham-Kent gave municipal approval in August 2015. Tax revenues from the project are expected to be about $50,000 annually.

The project is expected to be operational by late 2019.

Otter Creek is now required to complete the provincial Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process as required by the Ministry of Environment. As part of the application, detailed environment studies are being completed.

The company’s representative, Adam Rosso, said a hot-button issue from the meeting was ground water concerns and water wells and the potential impact wind farms might have on drinking water.

Rosso said his company is proactively identifying where there are water wells in the Otter Creek project area.

“So we can determine with regards to our design and our development, to see if we can mitigate any concerns that the public might have with regards to their wells,” he said.

It’s expected that another public meeting will be held in October when REA documents and results will be available. After that there is a 60-day public review of those documents. Another open house will be held in December when those results will be discussed with the community, Rosso said.

Coun. Leon Leclair, a long-time farmer in Dover, said it’s important to ensure that water wells resin safe.

He said he’s assurances that the Otter Creek project will be implemented in a satisfactory manner.

“They are still in the preliminary stage, but I think they’re getting the message loud and clear about the water wells,” Leclair said.

He added that he wants to make sure Otter Creek “looks out for the little guy.”

Leclair said the wind turbines are a positive addition to Chatham-Kent, noting the money such companies bring in to the community.

But that money is not to pay for damages or to resolve landowner disputes, he said. “It’s for the municipality as a whole.”

He added: “I don’t believe that we had a choice… the windmills were coming. But by saying we were a willing host we have these funds.”