When Water Wells First announced late last week it was asking the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate whether the municipality acted negligently in performing the duties of office, Mayor Randy Hope had no comment when first contacted by The Chatham Daily News.
The municipality has since issued a response dispelling some of Water Wells First spokesperson Kevin Jakubec’s assertions.
Mayor Hope and the municipality’s chief legal officer, John Norton, say Jakubec reached a settlement with the wind farm developers and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change on Sept. 30.
The municipality’s news release states “Chatham-Kent agreed to the settlement only because the dispute was fundamentally between Mr. Jakubec and the other parties and they had all resolved their differences.”
Jakubec has raised the issue that wind farm developers have damaged water wells in an area north of Chatham through the vibrations caused during the construction of the wind turbines.
He sought an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) after believing the construction projects had caused particles of heavy metals from the Kettle Point black shale formation to enter the local ground water.
Jakubec now wants the ombudsman to determine if the municipality is in a conflict of interest by receiving millions of dollars from the wind farm developers as the host community.
At the time of the ERT, the parties exchanged a number of documents including a detailed reported by Golder Associates, dated September 2016.
Jakubec said, at that time, Hope and Norton maintained the municipality agreed with that report’s findings, which concluded there is very little risk to the aquifer from the pile-driven construction of the turbine foundations.
Norton now says in the news release: “While the Golder report was paid for by North Kent Wind 1, each of the professionals involved in that matter provided an ‘Acknowledgment of Experts Duty’ under the Practice Directions of the ERT.
“That Acknowledgment provides that the experts’ duty is to provide fair, objective and non-partisan information and provide opinions only within their area of expertise,” stated Norton.
While the municipality receives payments from the wind farm developer, Hope stated “Chatham-Kent took great efforts to make sure that if this turbine construction was approved by the province, our community would receive some significant benefit as a result.
“Of course, no amount of money would justify a negative impact on our citizens’ water,” he added.
“Our first priority is always the health and well-being of our citizens,” the mayor stated in the news release.
The Golder report was authored by five professionals including a geoscientist, a civil engineer, a hydrologist, a blasting and vibration consultant and a radiation specialist.
Norton said the individuals are exceptionally qualified in their fields of study and presented a comprehensive analysis of the issues before the ERT.
The municipality issued a news release in October 2016 detailing the history of the matter and the result of the mediation.
What’s important for citizens to know now, says Norton, “is for our residents to understand that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has required North Kent Wind 1 to provide testing on active water wells prior to construction of wind turbines.”
He urges residents to participate in this program, which is free of charge, so that baseline levels can be established.
If anyone suspects their well water changes after any future construction, they should contact the wind turbine developer promptly, Norton said.
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