Thirteen Chatham-area well owners have now filed water well interference complaints following the start of construction on a 34-turbine wind power project near their properties.
The project developer, North Kent Wind 1, owned by Samsung Energy and Pattern Energy, started pile driving for the first turbine foundation in late June. The vibrations caused by the pile driving can be felt hundreds of meters away.
Before construction began, experts predicted that local wells could suffer siltation problems from the vibrations. Some of the 13 wells affected to date have become so silted up that water no longer flows through the household plumbing.
Last Sunday, the Council of Canadians’ honorary chair, Maude Barlow, spoke at a Dover Centre event in support of the community and water as a human right.
“It is outrageous that the Ontario government is refusing to halt construction in the face of overwhelming evidence that harm is being done,” said Barlow. “The Wynne government must order the construction to stop now. If Samsung can’t do this project without damaging people’s water then they should not do it at all.”
North Chatham residents have been working to protect their well water after learning of pollution problems faced by dozens of families in neighbouring Dover Township, where wells began showing high levels of black silt as soon as pile driving started for various wind turbine projects built there over the last eight years. Both townships sit atop the Kettle Point Black Shale formation.
When the steel pilings of turbine foundations are driven into the shale, the vibrations cause black silt to enter water wells nearby. In Dover, there is also ample evidence that even long after construction, certain wind conditions cause the turbines to vibrate and black silt appears in area wells again.
Last year, Kevin Jakubec, the spokesperson for Water Wells First, whish is a group formed out of concern that the proposed North Kent Wind 1 project would harm local wells, challenged the provincial approval of the project at the Environmental Review Tribunal. Several expert witnesses testified that the Kettle Point Black Shale formation could send silt into the overlying aquifer when vibrated and that wind turbines could transmit vibrations through their pilings anchored in the bedrock, causing problems up to several kilometres away.
“We worried we were going to face the same problems from North Kent 1 that people in Dover have had to live with for the last eight years,” said Jakubec. “Despite all our work to warn the Ontario government and the company, despite all the evidence we now have of well interference, they both continue to pretend that nothing is wrong. This isn’t about whether wind power is good or bad. This is about a poorly designed project wrecking our water and a government that is so deeply beholden to the interests of billion-dollar corporations that it refuses to protect its own citizens.”
This latest well interference complaint was made by Calvin Simmons, who first noticed sediment appearing in his family’s well water in August after pile driving started nearby.
“It’s devastating to have this happen to our water after living in this area for almost 50 years,” said Simmons. “I am worried that my family, friends, and neighbours could get sick from the water now.”
North Kent 1 recently sought a court injunction and an award of legal costs against protestors who had been blocking access to one of the 34 turbine construction sites. A hearing on the injunction is set for today. The protestors were ordered not to further block or otherwise interfere with any construction activities.
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