The developers of the Otter Creek Wind Farm Project are taking a proactive step to address concerns raised in the community regarding the potential impact wind turbine construction can have on water wells.
In announcing its Renewable Energy Approval (REA) application has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, a partner in the project, Boralex, issued a media notice that it plans to voluntarily test water wells within one kilometre of key project infrastructure, specifically wind turbines, the substation and meteorological tower, prior to construction starting.
The other partners in the 50-megawatt, 12-turbine project, include Renewable Energy Systems Canada and Walpole Island First Nation.
The citizen group Water Wells First has raised concerns for the past several months that it believes vibrations from the construction of wind turbines, including driving piles into the Kettle Point black shale bedrock, is causing turbidity in water wells. Of particular concern is the fact Kettle Point black shale is known to contain heavy metals including uranium, arsenic and mercury.
Asier Ania, project manager of development for Boralex, said, “we’re doing some voluntary well testing for wells adjacent to the property just to alleviate the public’s concerns.”
Tests will be conducted by independent qualified professionals and the results will be given to each landowner that chooses to participate in the program.
“If there is a complaint during construction and the first year of operation, and we do another test and there is a difference for these people participating in the water testing, we’ll supply potable water while we’re investigating for the results,” Ania said.
Complaints by property owners who don’t participate in the pre-construction testing will be investigated, but potable water won’t be provided to them, the company states.
When asked if there is a plan if a well somehow is destroyed during the period, he said: “No, we don’t have plans.”
Ania said based the evidence collected from two engineering consultant groups – GHD and Golder Associates – “we don’t see this as being a concern for wind turbine construction and operation.”
Water Wells First spokesperson Kevin Jakubec, who saw the media note prior to speaking with The Daily News, said, “on the surface, it looks like it’s a step forward.”
However, he believes “the devil is in the details” of the REA filed by Boralex and how it will be interpreted.
Jakubec said it’s not the MOECC that will looking at the damage, it’s the wind developer’s engineer.
He is concerned the company will claim they don’t see the “off-site causation,” which is legally required to prove the wind turbines are causing damage, and say, “Sorry we can’t help you.”
Jakubec continues to question the validity of an engineering report on geological conditions by Golder Associates, claiming it is not based on Kettle Point black shale bedrock.
However, Ania disagrees, noting GHC’s review of Golder’s report specifically talks about Kettle Point black shale.
“It’s very clear the consultants that we’ve engaged with understand what’s there and their conclusions are based on the variables in the vicinity and (the presence of this bedrock) being one of them,” he said.
Ania said property owners in the project area will be contacted to ask if they want to be part of water well testing program. He added there are still some details to be worked out, but the company wanted to get the word out the REA has been submitted and “we are doing something as opposed to nothing at all.”
Property owners can also request to be part of the pre-construction testing by e-mailing email@example.com or calling 1-844-330-9061. Information about the project is also available at www.ottercreekwindfarm.ca.