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Turbine turmoil at public meeting; Residents continue to seek answers over damaged wells in wind farm area

A meeting to update residents about the progress of the North Kent Wind farm on Thursday night didn’t take long to become heated.

The majority of residents in attendance wanted answers about what will be done regarding complaints about 16 water wells that have gone bad during the construction phase of the project.

The mood quickly went from angry to hostile when Matthew Alexander, a hydrologist with AECOM, the consulting firm hired to do investigate well complaints, stated water samples collected have shown the quality is the same as or, in some cases, better than the quality of baseline samples taken before construction began.

“We’re not that stupid,” came a shout from the crowd.

Prior to the meeting, Alexander told The Chatham Daily News when investigating a water well complaint, such factors as the construction schedule, where work is occurring in proximity to complaint received and when, specifically, pile driving occurred are all considered.

“We have concluded that the construction, the pile driving activities are not the cause of the complaints (about the wells),” he said.

The Daily News also spoke with Dr. Storer Boone, a geo-technical engineer with Golder Associates, the firm that did an extensive report surrounding the impact of vibrations.

“The magnitudes of the vibrations once you start getting hundreds of metres away from the construction are extraordinarily small,” he said.

He added, “the effect these extremely small vibrations would have on water wells is . . . inconsequential.”

Boone noted the measurements that have been taken for the project shows vibrations caused by a vehicle driving by or the pump kicking on are far greater than what can be detected from the pile driving.

Peter Hensel, a member of the citizen group Water Wells First, said a retired well driller told him he has never seen this many water wells have problems in the same area during the 40 years he was in the business.

He asked the experts assembled for the public meeting: “Have you ever thought that there’s a possibility that you could be wrong?”

Two residents whose water wells have gone bad during the construction also spoke out at the meeting.

Jessica Brooks said the water tank that has been provided by North Kent Wind has already frozen so far this fall.

“What are we going to do for water over the winter?” she demanded. “I don’t know how this is going to work.”

Theresa Pumfrey, whose family was the first in the North Kent Wind project area to report their water well being damaged last March, said: “To this day, we live on a tank (of water) in our driveway.”

She said her family has spent over $20,000 of their own money to get clean water for their home “because nobody, has yet, addressed our issue.

“I’m sick of it, I want to know what you’re going to do for me, today?”

Jody Law, project developer with Pattern Energy, which is developing the project with Samsung Renewable Energy, spoke with The Daily News after the meeting.

“We recognize this is obviously an important issue in the community . . . you can see that with people’s reaction,” he said.

When asked if the company has seen this number of complaints about water wells come forward before, he said: “No, we have not.”

He was also asked if there is a possibility something has not been seen?

“We rely on our experts to the analysis every time there’s a complaint,” Law said, adding it is believed “they are looking at every angle to make their assessment.”

All the pile driving has been completed and the 34 turbines are anticipated to be commissioned by February, weather permitting.

The Daily News asked how the issue of vibrations will be addressed when the wind farm is operating.

“We’re working with the ministry . . . to develop a vibration monitoring plan for the operations period that will run at least three years into the first part of our operations, and potentially longer,” Law said.