Although Kevin Jakubec withdrew his appeal for the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) for the North Kent Wind project, he is ready to continue the fight to protect water wells.
“I haven’t changed my position, I haven’t run away,” the leader of the citizens group Water Wells First told The Chatham Daily News on Tuesday, adding he was under an order not to speak until after a final decision was delivered on the matter.
Jakubec filed an appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) under the Environmental Protection Act, concerning the REA that was approved for the North Kent Wind project by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
Water Wells First formed after learning about problems some Dover Township area residents have been having with their water wells since wind turbines have been erected in the area. The concern is the vibrations caused by driving piles into the bedrock for the foundations as well as the ongoing operations of the turbines have caused turbidity in wells and stirred up potentially dangerous sediments that are now coming through the tap.
Jakubec was upset to see the Municipality of Chatham-Kent issued a statement on the matter on Wednesday, the day the request to withdraw the appeal was officially filed with ERT.
The municipality touted a report by Golder Associates, who was an expert witness for Samsung/Pattern Energy, the company building the North Kent Wind project, that indicates ground vibrations generated during construction and after turbine operation is likely to be insignificant on well water conditions.
Jakubec questioned how chief legal officer John Norton and Mayor Randy Hope were qualified to comment on the Golder Associates report.
“You’ve got a lawyer and a politician making a very big decision for every family that’s on a well in north Chatham-Kent,” he said.
Hope said, “nothing gives me the authority to speak on it, other than that’s the briefing I got.”
He noted based on the information he received that was in the report, it sounds like Golder Associates are very qualified.
Jakubec said the public should have the right to review this report and it should also be made public to see if it can stand up to scientific review.
Hope said he has received several requests for this report to be released, but noted the municipality doesn’t own it. He added he has made a request to the company to have it posted on its website.
Jakubec said the municipality has a vested interest in the North Kent Wind project, because it is receiving millions of dollars in community host fees.
Hope said Jakubec seems to be trying to deflect this issue onto the municipality.
“I wasn’t the appellant, I didn’t drop the appeal.”
He added Chatham-Kent was proactive in getting community host fees, since there is nothing that can be done by a municipality to stop turbines from being erected in a community if its approved by the province.
“We lost our authority, we have no authority on this,” Hope said.
Jakubec said he was seeking to modify the REA through the ERT process.
“What I was looking for was improvements in protecting the aquifer and the wells that are drawing water out of the aquifer,” he said.
Jakubec said the concern lies in the fact bedrock found in north Chatham-Kent is comprised of Kettle Point black shale, which is known as one of the “most metals rich black shale formations in Canada.”
He added a 1993 report by the Ministry of Natural Resources viewed this black shale bedrock as an environmental hazard containing such metals as uranium, arsenic and mercury.
Jakubec said he opted to withdraw his appeal when he was unable to get a 14-day adjournment to conduct a toxicity study which he considered to be key evidence.
But, Water Wells First is forging ahead to have a toxicity study done by respected toxicologist Dr. William Sawyer, from New York State, and have it published a peer-reviewed journal, he said. More details about this will be provided during a public meeting being hosted by Water Wells First on Thursday night at Country View Golf Course at 7 p.m.
However, Jakubec said gains were still made through the mediation process.
He said it was discovered in Dover that people with damaged wells who accepted a “goodwill” filtration system, as well as landowners who have turbines, had to sign confidentiality clauses
He noted under the REA for this project, the company is required to obtain a history of water wells in the area where the wind farm will be built and take water samples, which must be provided to the landowners.
“As that condition is written into the permit, they cannot ask you to enter into a confidentiality clause or agreement to take that sample,” Jakubec said.
“This is huge, this is landmark, the gagging machine is broken,” he added.
“Now we can’t get in a situation like Dover again, where we can’t get at that information.”
He noted the company must also come back with a contingency plan for remedial measures if wells are negatively impacted, at the company’s expense. This plan, which has to be in place before construction starts, must be turned over to a community liaison committee and the REA director at the same time, he added.
Jakubec said gains were also made to the eight months of work he did working with the MOECC leading up to issuing the REA for the wind project with respect to improved monitoring measures.
He said ground water monitoring and ground-borne vibration monitoring was originally only supposed to be done on area wells by the company for two years, but that has been extended to three years.
The Daily News asked the MOECC if these particular requirements are a first to be included in a REA for a wind farm project and will they become a standard for these types of REAs in the future?
The MOECC responded via e-mail: “The conditions set out in a REA are based on the specific conditions of a particular project.
“The MOECC may implement similar terms if there are similar considerations at another project.”
The statement also noted the settlement did not require any amendments to the REA approval.
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