Bill Clarke, a retired hydrogeologist who has been working with [Water Wells First], said he is not opposed to alternative green energy sources, including wind generators. “What I am opposed to is a disregard for people's right to have access to clean water and the dismissive attitude towards obvious changes in the water quality of the contact aquifer,” he added. Clarke said it is “statistically unlikely” that this number of families would experience the “extreme change in water quality, specifically turbidity, at the same time without an obvious, recent geological event like an earthquake, or in this case, an anthropological event – the construction and operation of the wind towers.”
Some fresh eyes will be looking at the factors surrounding the water quality issues experienced on some properties within the North Kent Wind farm outside of Chatham.
Dr. Joel Gagnon, associate professor and department head of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Windsor, told The Chatham Daily News on Monday: “There’s obviously a really good scientific question there.
“What we’re doing is approaching it as universities do, it’s an academic question,” he added.
Kevin Jakubec, spokesperson for Water Wells First, said he is pleased to see academia will become involved in the process.
The grassroots citizen group has spent nearly two years raising the alarm about the potential harm to human health from the heavy metal-laden particles from the Kettle Point black shale that lies under the aquifer that supplies water to area wells. The group’s concern has been heightened as nearly 20 water wells have been clogged with sediments during pile driving to construct the wind towers for North Kent Wind and others that have experienced problems since some of the turbines recently began operating.
Water Wells First blames the vibrations from construction and operation of the wind farm for causing the well interference. However, the developers – Korean industrial giant Samsung Renewable Energy and American partner Pattern Energy – say the wind farm is not causing the problem, according to the results of their consultants’ studies. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Control has sided with the wind developers.
Gagnon said it is recognized Water Wells First has limited resources, so “we’re trying to figure out how we might be able to help them better understand the problem and then deal with it.”
Noting he visited a few of the affected properties, Gagnon said, “clearly, there’s a water quality problem and it appears to be suspended sediments.”
He added the sediment has the same appearance as the underlying shale bedrock.
However, Gagnon cautions it’s still “early days.
“We’re trying to get our feet under us and really figure out where we can contribute in terms of understanding the problem,” he added.
Speaking to the academic aspect, Gagnon said there is a practical element of field training to allow students to get involved with how water sampling is done according to approved protocols.
Then there’s the research questions that will build on that, he added.
When asked about the possibility of working with the MOECC and the project developers, Gagnon said: “At this point, we’re not sure how relationships might develop going forward.”
However, the university is not there to assign blame from what it finds.
“We’re a university, we’re not consultants, so we’re there, really, to try to understand what’s changed,” Gagnon said.
He added when they can understand what’s changed, then solutions can be proposed.
“We just don’t know where it’s going to go at this point,” Gagnon said.
The issue became heated at Queen’s Park on Thursday when Essex MPP Taras Natyshak was removed from the legislature for producing a water sample during his remarks regarding suspected water contamination in the area due to wind turbines.
He held up a jar of blackish water while speaking from the floor of the legislature, stating he wanted to contrast it with the water the government provides at Queen’s Park.
This resulted in the MPP being ejected from the legislature for the day.
Suspecting he would be called out for breaking the rule of bringing a problem into the legislature, Natyshak said, “sometimes civil disobedience is required to get the message through.”
He asked the government to test the water and conduct a “human health study” to determine what the exposure limits are for black shale, which he said is a like a sponge that carries arsenic, lead and uranium.
“For a hundred years they’ve had clean – they called it sweet – water, that came from an area of amazing agricultural land in Southwestern Ontario,” Natyshak said. “Now all these wells are exposed to this.”
The MPP brought members of Waters Wells First to Queen’s Park to further raise the issue during a media conference.
Bill Clarke, a retired hydrogeologist who has been working with the group, said he is not opposed to alternative green energy sources, including wind generators.
“What I am opposed to is a disregard for people’s right to have access to clean water and the dismissive attitude towards obvious changes in the water quality of the contact aquifer,” he added.
Clarke said it is “statistically unlikely” that this number of families would experience the “extreme change in water quality, specifically turbidity, at the same time without an obvious, recent geological event like an earthquake, or in this case, an anthropological event – the construction and operation of the wind towers.”
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