The grassroots Water Wells First group has taken full aim at long-time Wallaceburg politician Jeff Wesley for comments he wrote in a letter to the editor in the Courier Press a few weeks ago.
Water Wells First on Feb. 24 named Wesley as the second recipient of their Shame Award. The organization created an award with an attached figurine of the fictional character Pinocchio to it to illustrate their frustration.
Water Wells First spokesperson Kevin Jakubec said they’re singling out Wesley for what they believe is a misleading of the public.
At issue is whether an independent and qualified third party is needed to do water well testing for the proposed Otter Creek wind farm project.
In his letter to the editor, Wesley said the Ministry of Environment and the Otter Creek project should set up pre- and post-construction well monitoring at wells. He added that the water well testing must be completed by a qualified independent third-party testing group that reports directly to the MOECC and is therefore free from any conflicts of interest.
Wesley said he and Jakubec have never spoke, nor the Water Wells First spokesperson asked him any questions to clarify his stance on testing.
Wesley is accusing Water Wells First of grandstanding and said Jakubec is mistaken about the issue.
Wesley said he has asked for an apology and retraction of the award.
“In the news (letter to the editor) I was very clear that I was calling for an independent and qualified third party to do the water well testing because a consultant working for Otter Creek wind farms does not fit that bill,” Wesley told the Courier Press in an emailed statement he sent out on the weekend.
Wesley said he wrote that the water well tester must report to the province’s Ministry of Environment and not the Otter Creek wind project developers.
Jakubec said there is no independent third party that will do testing for Otter Creek, as all parties must be in agreement about who will do the testing.
“That is not the case. We have a two-party system here. We have two points of view here… there is no trusted third party. To say third party at all is misleading,” Jakubec said, noting Water Wells First has issues with the testing.
Wesley said he has been kept out of the loop and not invited to Water Wells First meetings.
Wesley said he has tried to help local residents who are concerned about their water wells, and said he will continue to raise concerns.
“Does Mr. Jakubec want help or does he simply want to grandstand by attacking those in our community that are trying to help the best way they can?”
Jakubec said no apology will be coming from Water Wells First. He said the award was given to draw awareness to the problem of the loss of groundwater quality for rural Chatham-Kent families dependent on this source of water for their water supply. He equated it to a parent who was disciplining their child to change their behaviour.
Jakubec said Chatham-Kent council has not taken the problem seriously.
“Not a single finger has been lifted by any of our elected municipal politicians to investigate and come up with any solutions,” Jakubec said, adding accusations that Wesley was one of the councillors who laughed at deputations being made by families with contaminated water at a council meeting.
“How can we trust a councillor that laughs at his constituent’s plight?”
Jakubec disputes that Wesley has been vigilant on the water wells issue and acting proactively.
The Chatham-Kent group says nearby wind turbines are contaminating local drinking water in the former Dover Township. They have concerns about two proposed wind projects – North Kent 1, which is scheduled to be built southeast of Wallaceburg; and the Otter Creek wind project, which is set for north of Wallaceburg.
Mayor Randy Hope is up next for the third Water Wells First shame award for what the group calls a lack of leadership.
The first award of shame handed out to Water Wells First was presented to Otter Creek officials in mid-February.
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