The ongoing water problems Dover Township-area residents Michelle Howes and Ron Tetrault have experienced with well water on their property has left them exasperated.
They can’t drink, bathe or do laundry in their home, because of the amount of sediment in the water that flows through their taps, and even shows up in their clothes dryer.
The problem began three years ago when a wind farm was erected in their area and it continues today.
They go to a campground to bathe and head into Chatham to do their laundry, as well as rely on bottled water to drink.
“We can’t be doing this day-after-day,” Howes told a crowd of well over 200 people who attended a public information session at the Country View Golf Course Wednesday night organized by the citizen group Water Well First.
Tetrault said they are still paying for an $8,000 water treatment and filtration system that can’t cope with the sediment and sand that continues to show up in their water.
Prior to the turbines being erected, Tetrault said, “we never had a problem with that well.”
The organizers of Water Wells First believe, based on similar problems several other Dover-area residents are also having with their well water, that vibrations from the operation of area industrial wind turbines is the root of this problem.
The concern is the same thing could happen with the North Kent 1 wind farm that is in process of being developed in Chatham Township.
Kevin Jakubec, spokesperson for Water Wells First, who has researched this issue, discovered that the Ministry of Environment recognizes that vibration can cause water problems, but only requires the wind developer to supply affected landowners with bottled water as a remedy.
“That’s just insane,” he told the crowd.
Jakubec said the aquifer that provides ground water to area residents is 12,000 years old and should be protected.
He has also done research, and with the help of the Ontario Ground Water Association (OGWA), was able to file an appeal with the Environmental Review Tribunal regarding the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) that was awarded to the North Kent 1 project, which has halted it from proceeding at this point.
Jakubec had to file in his own name to meet the tight timeline. He also decided to not stay the decision, meaning the ruling of the tribunal will be final.
If he opted to stay the decision, Jakubec said it would then go to the Divisional Court “then you’re at risk for being hit back with legal fees and being hit back with construction delays from the wind developer.”
However, he is confident the appeal can be won.
“We have a very, very strong scientific argument,” Jakubec said, having outlined research on the impact of vibration from wind farms in Europe.
The group needs an estimated $200,000 to hire experts in order to make their case before the tribunal.
The goal is to achieve a precedent-setting victory that will bring about changes to the REA that will provide real protections, such as requiring vibration suppression technology being installed on wind turbines and proper compensation if water wells are damaged.
Craig Stainton, OGWA executive director, told the crowd: “We’re now in the realm of the bureaucrats and like it or not, we have to play the bureaucratic game.”
But, he added if the tribunal can be convinced “to see our side then they’re going to allow us to rewrite . . . the Renewal Energy Approval.”
Stainton said the group is not anti-wind because there is a need for renewable energy.
“Our point is not at the expense of aquifers,” he said.
Chatham-Kent Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls attended the meeting and pledged his support to fight for family farms.
“To have these industrial wind turbines come along and do what they’re doing is absolutely insane,” he said. “They put profit ahead of life, well I put life ahead of profit.”
Nicholls said renewable energy needs to be affordable, practical and safe.
For more information on the appeal, fundraising and a petition the citizens’ group has started, go to www.waterwellsfirst.org.
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