Residents seeing impacts on their water wells from nearby wind turbine construction are concerned they will no longer have a strong advocate at their side.
The citizen group Water Wells First (WWF) held a press conference Friday at the home of Chatham Township resident Calvin Simmons. His is the 13th water well to be clogged with sediments after pile driving began nearby to erect turbines for the North Kent Wind project.
Simmons, who has already burned out one pump because of low pressure and sediments in his well system, is upset with a demand by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) when he asked to have his water tested.
“They told me there can’t be no protesters, no Kevin Jakubec (WWF spokesperson) and no Water Well First members,” he said.
Simmons said he needs Jakubec there, because of his knowledge of the renewal energy approval (REA), which is the permit granted by the MOECC for the construction of the North Kent Wind project, owned by Korean industrial giant Samsung and its U.S. partner Pattern Energy.
Lucy DeFraeye, also a Chatham Township resident whose well water filled with sediments after pile driving took place nearby, said a ministry staffer left her home a few weeks ago without doing any testing when she learned Jakubec was present.
“She left us hanging there.”
DeFraeye said she needed Jakubec’s help, because her husband was working and she doesn’t know how the water well filtration system works.
Jakubec said the ministry is denying service.
“This is serious . . . this is water being contaminated and they’ll walk away,” he said.
The Chatham Daily News contacted the MOECC about the situation involving Jakubec.
“Ministry staff would like to continue to visit and obtain information from residences where there are concerns about well water,” stated an email from the MOECC received late Friday afternoon. “When situations arise during their inspection activity, staff must use their discretion as to whether to continue or end their inspection, depending on the circumstances.”
Jakubec said 18 water wells in two townships – 13 in Chatham Township and five in Dover Township – with a common pollution problem of sediments – have been brought to the attention of the MOECC.
“And there’s been nothing back from them,” Jakubec said.
He said the ministry knows he will advise property owners to ask why the MOECC isn’t collecting sediment samples, because that is the common pollutant being seen in wells that are going bad.
Jakubec said frustration and anger is growing over the MOECC “failing to actually look at the real pollution here, which is the sediments.”
The REA doesn’t require North Kent Wind to test the sediments, but Jakubec said the MOECC has gone outside the REA to start testing for heavy metals in dissolved water.
He said more than $100,000 was raised in the community for him to participate in an Environment Review Tribunal last year, which included trying to have heavy metal testing added to the REA for the North Kent Wind project.
MOECC lawyers “fought vehemently against that,” Jakubec said. “Now, they start looking at it. Why the flip-flop?”
For more than a year, the group has raised concerns that vibrations from the construction and operation of industrial wind turbines will cause heavy metal-laden Kettle Point black shale – which makes up the bedrock on which the area’s ground water aquifer is located – to shake loose and get into the water. The black shale is known to contain heavy metals that are danger to human health, including uranium, arsenic and lead.
While WWF has called for heavy metal testing, Jakubec said the MOECC is not testing for heavy metals in the right place.
“They’re looking for heavy metals dissolved in water, they should be looking . . . in the sediments,” he said.
He added the ministry has recognized there is black shale present, noting the WWF questions why the MOECC is not doing a sediment analysis?
The MOECC told The Daily News that the ministry is aware that the shale of the Kettle Point formation underlies the area.
It also noted the groundwater has historically flowed through an aquifer made up, in part, of Kettle Point shale granules and private wells in the area rests on this bedrock.
“Well water quality testing prior to wind turbine construction showed that turbidity in the wells could be associated with naturally occurring groundwater conditions,” the ministry stated.
The email response added the ministry is using turbidity analysis to assess whether vibrations associated with wind turbine construction are related to the amount of particles in the groundwater.
The statement added particles do not dissolve with vibration.
It also noted that historical information on the groundwater aquifer has not identified any issues with metals in the water column.
“The primary purpose of the ministry’s sampling is to provide an independent confirmation of the analytical results reported by the proponent and their consultant,” the email said. “The ministry’s sampling aligns with the parameters set out in the Renewable Energy Approval.”