Less than two days after pile driving began to construct industrial turbines near Jessica and Paul Brooks’ home in Chatham Township, their once crystal-clear water well has become clogged with sediments.
The couple, who live on Brook Line north of Chatham within the North Kent Wind project area, say the sediment plugs up their system so badly that the water actually stops coming out of the taps at times.
Jessica Brooks said the first sign of the problem occurred last Friday night after 10 p.m. when her husband couldn’t finish taking a shower after work, because the four sediment traps they have installed on their well system were plugged up, preventing the water from flowing through.
They decided to deal with it Saturday morning and found they needed to clean the sediment traps every six hours. A few days later, the sediment traps began clogging at a much faster rate.
Brooks said they called the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and an official came out on Tuesday.
“They took a sample of water but they did not take the sediments that we had collected over the weekend,” she said.
The Chatham Daily News contacted the MOECC and received a response by e-mail.
“The ministry believes the measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality in these circumstances because it captures the potential impact on a water well, rather than test for the presence of shale particles alone.
The ministry added samples collected on Tuesday will include analysis for turbidity.
Water Wells First spokesman Kevin Jakubec said the Brooks family has spent upwards of $4,000 on baseline testing recommended by Water Wells First.
Brooks said prior to this issue occurring their water was “beautifully crystal clear.”
She said they have documented tests done in February, March, April, May and June and “it’s all coming back – we have a beautiful well.”
She noted there’s some sodium in the water and it is a little hard, which is common for ground water, but “otherwise it’s a perfect well.”
Brooks said not having drinking water is the least of her concerns, noting they have three teenagers in a home where they can’t take showers, flush the toilet or do laundry.
Jakubec said this is the second well in the North Kent Wind project area that has experienced problems after pile driving activity has taken place nearby.
“Only a fool would think that there’s not a link between pile driving vibrations and impacts on our water wells,” he said.
The Daily News asked what the ministry will do if other water wells in the area start showing similar negative impacts?
“As a first step, the company must comply with the conditions of its Renewable Energy Approval,” said the MOECC. “Upon becoming aware of a complaint, the company is to retain a qualified expert to collect a water sample at the location, assess the results and submit a report to the ministry on whether the construction of the wind farm caused an adverse effect to the well’s water supply.
“In addition to actions required to be taken by the company, ministry staff consider a number of factors when deciding on the level of response required by the ministry. Where necessary, the ministry may use enforcement measures, such as orders to ensure that the North Kent 1 wind farm project is constructed/operated in a manner that protects and sustains the environment and prevents off-site impact.”
More than a year ago, Water Wells First began sounding the alarm about building industrial wind farms in the area, because the aquifer is in an area with Kettle Point black shale bedrock, known to contain heavy metals such as uranium, arsenic and lead, which are dangerous to human health. There concern is the vibrations from the construction and operation of wind turbines, anchored into this bedrock, will cause sediments from this black shale to get into water wells.
North Kent Wind is the first project in Ontario to have ground water and ground vibration monitoring conditions built into the permit, Jakubec said.
However, he added the MOECC has refused to provide any vibration monitoring data.
“We want to see that vibration data turned over to an independent review,” Jakubec said.
The MOECC responded that monitoring was conducted by the company and/or their consultant, who may be willing to share the data.
“Alternatively the information they provided to the ministry is subject to the Freedom of Information Protection and Privacy Act.”
The ministry also noted the company has a public liaison committee in place, as required by their approval, which makes certain documents, reports and information available.
Jakubec said Water Wells First told the MOECC several months ago that if water wells start to go down near this wind project, the project should be halted and a full investigation that includes collecting the sediments and placing vibration sensors on the bedrock surface.
He said the group also served notice to the MOECC that there would be repercussions if wells started going down.
He indicated those repercussions could some soon.
“I don’t think our community, in its history, will see the level and the intensity of civil disobedience that’s going to unfold in the next few weeks,” Jakubec said.
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