Members of the grassroots citizen group Water Wells First are being peaceful with their protests against the North Kent Wind project, but that will change if they don’t get answers.
An information picket was set up Thursday morning on Darrell Line in Chatham Township at the entrance to an access road where piles are being driven so a turbine can be erected as part of the wind farm project.
Water Wells First spokesperson Kevin Jakubec said the group wants to educate construction workers about their concerns.
However, he said they are not happy the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has authorized the pile driving to begin for the wind project, before Water Wells First had its promised meeting with ministry officials to discuss its concerns about the impact on area water wells.
Jakubec said last Friday an MOECC official left him a voicemail as a “courtesy” notifying Water Wells First that pile driving was beginning this week. He added a meeting scheduled with the MOECC on June 28 was arranged a week before receiving notice the pile driving would begin.
For about a year, the citizen group has been active in getting its message out about the concerns it has with this wind development – co-owned by Samsung Renewable Energy and Pattern Energy – being constructed over an area that has Kettle Point black shale as its bedrock.
The primary concern is the vibration from piles being driven into the bedrock to anchor the industrial wind turbines, and from the ongoing operation of the devices, will cause dangerous heavy metals in the shale, such as arsenic and uranium, to contaminate the shallow aquifer that supplies well water for area residents.
The group’s concerns stem from the impacts seen on water wells in nearby Dover Township after a wind farm was erected there. Some residents have come forward after their wells became so turbid they are no longer safe to use.
“This is a heavy metals contamination of the aquifer,” Jakubec said.
He said Water Wells First wants the MOECC to answer some key questions, including if the ministry will test and confirm the presence of Kettle Point black shale in the contaminated wells in Dover Township.
He added the group also wants to know if the MOECC will state what is the level of Kettle Point black shale in water that is safe for human consumption.
Jakubec said the MOECC “has never answered that question.”
The Chatham Daily News has attempted to reach the MOECC for comment.
Jakubec said Water Wells First has been working closely with the Council of Canadians and is ready to take its protests to a higher level to include a level of civil disobedience while remaining peaceful.
He noted this will include members of Water Wells First blocking access roads to wind turbines or handcuffing themselves to pile driving equipment.
Jakubec said if the group doesn’t get some satisfactory answers from its June 28 meeting with MOECC, their level of protest will extend to MOECC offices in the region. He also noted plans are in the works for a “slow down” on Highway 401 that would go from Windsor to Queen’s Park in Toronto.
Chatham Township resident Jackie Girard has never been part of a protest before taking part in Thursday’s information picket.
“What’s going on here is wrong,” she said.
Girard believes the vibrations from turbines have ruined water wells in Dover Township and “I believe they’re going to keep on doing it.”
She hopes the group can put enough pressure to stop these wind turbines from being built on the aquifer that serves the area.
Jakubec said he has previously asked a MOECC official what plans it has in place if reports start coming in about wells being damaged after pile driving begins.
He said he was told the ministry hasn’t thought that far ahead yet.
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