“Immediate action” has been promised by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change following a meeting Thursday with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent in regard to concerns over the contamination of water wells in North Kent.
But that action won’t include the halt of turbine construction. At least not yet.
The news comes a week after members of Water Wells First blocked workers from continuing construction at the new North Kent Wind project. Protesters demanded that turbine construction be halted until proper water well testing could be completed.
Coun. Jeff Wesley subsequently asked Chatham-Kent council on Monday to ask the ministry to take ownership of the water well testing, requesting they pay for a third-party expert to, among other things, conduct the tests.
The ministry responded a few days later.
“Ministry officials were open to the fact that there needs to be better communication,” Wesley wrote in a press release Thursday. “They took our concerns very seriously and committed to working to deal with the issues.”
According to Don Shropshire, chief administrative officer with the municipality, the Thursday’s meeting covered everything the council was hoping to discuss.
“We went through the motion that was passed Monday night,” Shropshire said. “The ministry, they actually understood the message completely, they were receptive to it … they made some commitments to go back and improve their communication and their presence here in the community.”
Council asked the government to cease construction of wind turbine projects in the municipality until proper tests are conducted.
As of Friday that specific request was still being processed.
“They indicated to date that they still had not seen any evidence to warrant closing down the [construction],” Shropshire said. “But from what we described to them is that there are some legitimate concerns … people are worried about the quality of their water and they haven’t gotten the information that they need.”
Shropshire added the main concern he and municipal council was hearing was lack of credible information. In the meeting Thursday, the ministry agreed it was their responsibility to facilitate the collection of that information. They also committed to having a greater presence in the municipality.
Whether those commitments are kept remains to be seen. While Shropshire is optimistic, some – including members of Water Wells First – remain skeptical.
“We’ve seen motions made, promises made at council meetings before, that in the end didn’t amount to a hill of beans,” the group said earlier in the week.
A motion to halt turbine construction, put forward by Coun. Michael Bondy last year, was unsuccessful. Rallies since then have been unsuccessful in drumming up results from municipal council, until now.
It’s painted them in a bad light, something Shropshire acknowledged.
“In retrospect I wish we would have been faster off the mark,” he said. “That’s the message that we’ve heard, that you know, it would have been better if we would have been faster.
“We’re doing what we can now to correct that,” he added.
– with files from Postmedia Network
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