WALLACEBURG – Otter Creek Wind Farm officials held a media briefing on Monday afternoon to answer back about claims from citizen group Water Wells First that their wind farm project will be a threat to local water wells.
Saying that they base their work on facts and scientific data, Otter Creek officials said there is no scientific proof that claims that vibrations from wind turbines cause well water to become dirty and full of sediment.
Water Wells First has been very vocal about both the proposed North Kent wind project, as well as the Otter Creek Wind Farm. The group is claiming that vibrations from industrial wind turbines already erected in the former Dover Township is harming ground water. Water Wells First has concerns about the Otter Creek project, because they say it’s being built on the same aquifer over the Kettle Point black shale formation, and they’re predicting similar damage will happen to water wells in the Wallaceburg area once the wind turbines are erected.
“A lot of the claims have been based on anecdotal evidence or experience,” said Otter Creek Wind Farm project manager Marc Weatherill.
“We take that seriously, but at the end of the day we need to rely on data, on facts, on science and we haven’t seen that from Water Wells First yet.”
Weatherill said that if the group provided scientific data that proves their claims, they would be grateful and happily review the information and details.
Weatherill said there are some studies that Water Wells First is drawing parallels with to try and help substantiate their claims. He confirms that Otter Creek Wind Farm did ask if they had done any studies of their own that they could share, and Water Wells First stated they have not.
“Which is to be honest is a bit disappointing given the degree and strength to which they are making these claims. To be speaking that strongly about this without actually having any studies done … we don’t think it’s quite right,” Weatherill said.
The Otter Creek Wind Farm project includes 12 proposed wind turbines located north of Wallaceburg. It will employ up to 150 people during construction. Boralex officials say that overall, it’s an $150-million investment they are making. The project is a partnership between Renewable Energy Systems Canada Inc. (RES Canada), Boralex and Walpole Island First Nation.
Otter Creek and Water Wells First discussed doing a joint study, but Otter Creek passed.
“We would like to get our own heads around this,” Weatherill said, adding that they wanted to get their own opinion first.
Weatherwill said they’re working with a third-party engineering firm GHD Consulting to establish if the claims that wind turbine vibrations are responsible for dirty well water are valid.
“We’ve got preliminary review from them of the Golder Report that was done for North Kent 1, and basically they said the Golder Report is viable as far as in its methodology, as far as the assumptions that they made and that is also applicable to our (project), because we’re not far away,” Weatherill said.
When pressed if they will make the third-party report from GHD public, Weatherill said they haven’t made a decision, but it’s their intent to make the report as part of their Renewable Energy Approval (REA), which is a public document. The REA for the Otter Creek Wind Farm project is expected to be submitted to the provincial Ministry of Environment in the next few months.
Otter Creek officials confirmed that the wind farm will be built on the Kettle Point black shale formation, and they have completed geological studies and plan to do more.
“But the purpose of those studies is primarily for us to understand what is under the ground so that we can design our foundations,” said Weatherill.
While most wind turbines use a “piling” foundation, Otter Creek is looking at alternative ways for building foundations for the wind turbines.
Boralex has met twice with Water Wells First to try and go over some issues. Boralex officials confirmed that they asked Water Wells First to turn over test results, studies and expert reports.
“The reason we asked for it is because Water Wells First is making a claim about a potential impact from our turbines, and we asked them to explain that claim in detail,” Weatherill said.
There have been thousands of wind turbines erected around the world, and Weatherill said the resulting dirty water impact is not widely seen anywhere else.
“What we said to them is, look we want to understand your concern, we want to understand the issue but we need to see it laid out for us. That is the reason why we asked for that and so far we haven’t seen anything like that,” Weatherill said.
Adam Rosso, project development director for Boralex, said there are no plans on doing baseline testing on water wells in and around the Otter Creek Wind Farm area.
“If that’s something that is required of us then we will, but as of right now we don’t have any plans to do that,” Weatherill said.
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