Water Wells First wants C-K to withhold building permits for wind farm until Dover water issue dealt with
Water Wells First is calling on the Municipality of Chatham-Kent to wield power it doesn’t have in its effort to get action on water well concerns in Dover Township.
During a media conference on Tuesday at Laurier Cartier’s farm in Dover, spokesperson for Water Wells First, Kevin Jakubec said Chatham-Kent could assist in having the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change investigate problems being seen with water wells in the area, by withholding building permits for a nearby wind turbine farm project.
The citizen group believes vibrations from the construction and operation of wind turbines in Dover has caused turbidity and sediment in area wells. It fears the same thing will happen when the North Kent Wind 1 project is constructed in nearby Chatham Township, because the ground water is on the same shallow aquifer that sits atop Kettle Point black shale, a known environmental hazard because it contains such heavy metals as uranium, arsenic and mercury.
“We want the municipality to withhold the building permits (for North Kent Wind),” Jakubec said, adding Chatham-Kent has “the ability to withhold the building permits until Dover is properly investigated.”
He said Chatham-Kent could withhold the building permits until a community contingency plan for the North Kent Wind project includes adding the provision that waterlines be provided by the developer if water wells are damaged by wind turbines.
But the municipality doesn’t have such authority, said Chatham-Kent’s chief legal officer John Norton.
“How the building permits work is we have to issue them as long as the person applying for the building permit has met all applicable the law,” he said Wednesday.
Norton said the applicable law in this case is the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
Norton said the REA for the North Kent Wind project requires the developers – Samsung and Pattern Energy – to undertake ground water monitoring as well as retain a qualified seismologist to monitor ground borne vibrations.
“Once the Ministry of Environment tells us the turbine company has met all the requirements in their approval process, then we’re obligated to issue a building permit,” Norton said.
He added the purpose of a building permit is for a building inspector to go in to check that something is constructed according to proper building codes.
“We’re not allowed to say we’re not issuing the building permit as long as they’ve met all the requirements required by the province,” Norton said.
If the turbines damage water wells and waterlines must be installed, Jakubec said residents who pay a water bill will be saddled with the burden to expand waterlines and increase water treatment facilities.
Tim Sunderland, general manager of the Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission, said extra water users could be taken on without needing to upgrade the existing water treatment plants.
When it comes to installing new waterlines, he said if a group of people on a specific concession want a waterline, they must apply to petition property owners to see if there is interest.
Then the process goes to the engineering and design stage to determine what the cost would be to each property owner, he said, adding 66 per cent of the vote moves it forward to have the waterline installed.
“It’s full-cost recovery,” Sunderland said, adding the cost is shared among the property owners on that line.
Since coming to the PUC in 2011, Sunderland said he has never seen a company pay the full cost of a waterline for residents.
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