Another family in North Kent is without water after pile driving activity less than one kilometre from their home on Brook Line resulted in a well pump clogged with sediment and no water from their taps.
Jessica and Paul Brooks have lived in the house on Brook Line for five years and said they have had no problems with their well before last Friday night. At a press conference at their home Wednesday, the Brooks and members of Water Wells First spoke about the ongoing well problems that the Ministry of Environment officials are calling a “coincidence”.
This latest round with London and Windsor officials from the MOECC has left WWF members and the Brooks more frustrated with the refusal of ministry staff to collect not only water samples, but the large amount of sediment clearly visible in the sediment sampling station the Brooks and other well owners have installed on their well pressure tanks.
“There is pile driving right behind (the house), about 750 metres away on Thursday and Friday and Paul called me Friday night and said at 10:30 p.m. when he was trying to shower, there was no water,” said WWF spokesperson Kevin Jakubec. “When we went down and looked at the sediment traps that we recommend… they were plugged with sediments.”
Jessica said they called the Ministry of the Environment and they came out yesterday (Tuesday) to take samples and “at that time the water was still running after we kept cleaning the filters out every six hours”. They would not, however, take a sample of the sediment even when Jessica offered to let them collect the sample themselves.
The Brooks have been collecting the sediment and documenting with photos and time of collection, as sediment is considered a contaminant, Jakubec said, in the Environmental Protection Act.
“I asked them at that time if the water was fit for use and she (the MOE official) refused to answer that because it had to go for analysis, but you could tell it was cloudy,” Jessica said.
Jakubec said the MOE provincial official was not following the Ontario Water Resources Act and not following and upholding the Environmental Protection Act (EPA).
“It’s very clear that Sec. 15 of the EPA obligates the provincial officer to assess and determine, if the well owner asks, to determine if the water is fit or unfit. Why doesn’t the provincial officer who comes to the site know her own duties?” Jakubec questioned.
The Brooks have already spent $4,000 in private baseline well testing since February of this year, and water was “crystal clear”, Jessica said, before the pile driving began. The family was using jugs of water they purchased to brush their teeth and drink from, but with three teenagers in the house, weren’t able to shower or flush their toilets by Wednesday.
“I have kids coming back from corn detassling that aren’t going to able to shower and I’m thinking of taking them to Kingston Park to run through the splash pad just to rinse off a little bit,” a frustrated Jessica noted. “I have three teens; that means dishes and laundry every day. I can’t run my appliances. I can’t even flush the toilets.”
An official from Samsung, who is a partner in the North Kent Wind farm project, was to meet with the Brooks family Wednesday afternoon to arrange to get them water as per the REA permit agreement in case of well issues.
The Brooks are leery of trusting the wind company to do right by them and want the MOECC officials to monitor the situation and the way the wind farm handles their complaint according to the REA permit agreement.
“Someone has to oversee it. You can’t have the one doing the harm and making restitution without some oversight,” she added. “So if they are doing the damage and to fix it is going to cost them some money, of course I don’t trust them. It doesn’t make sense for us to trust them.”
Jakubec said that with the Brooks being the second well affected after near-by pile driving including the Pumphreys who have had similar issues, “only a fool would think there is not a link between pile-driving, vibrations and impacts on our water wells”.
In addition to this particular issue, Jakubec said WWF is now dealing with bringing a new Environment Minister up to speed after the abrupt resignation of former minister Glen Murray, who is to be replaced in the cabinet by former housing minister Chris Ballard.
The group is also furious with Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope after learning of a letter he received from Murray on May 18 that reveals information WWF and the public could have benefited from knowing in dealing with MOE officials that admits “as required by REA approval, water samples are to be analyzed for bacteria and 19 general chemistry parametres, one of which includes turbidity.”
“The measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality because it captures the potential impact that a vibration from a wind turbine could have on a water well,” the letter from Murray states.
The letter goes on to say that the residents are concerned about vibration shaking loose particles that “could have a chemical make-up of heavy metals that are naturally occurring in the area; however any existing heavy metals in the rock do not dissolve with vibration.
“Water Wells First has had to obtain from the municipality thru a Freedom of Information request the response from MOECC Minister Glen Murray to your letter of April 20th, 2017 to him,” Jakubec said in an e-mail to Hope. “This reply you received from the Ministry of the Environment was nearly 6 weeks prior to the meeting between MOECC Management and Water Wells First on June 28th in Windsor.
“Had you shared the contents of this reply from Minister Glen Murray with Water Wells First and the community at large; our community may not have had to pay for additional private testing of their wells. To date $230,000 has been spent just on laboratory tests alone.”
Jakubec is asking Hope to attend a WWF meeting Aug. 15 and if he does not attend to address why he didn’t share the letter with WWF and the public, they will be making a formal complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman regarding conflict of interest, as the municipality has bought into the North Kent Wind Farm project.
“Why did you not disclose the contents of this letter from Minister Glen Murray when the letter clearly states sediment particles could have a chemical make-up of heavy metals? If you refuse to attend the August 15th meeting in person, and suitably explain why you chose not to disclose important information related to our rural population’s health then the Ombudsman complaints will follow.
In that circumstance, I would suggest you follow Glen Murray’s lead and resign from office.”
WWF has also found one of the wind farm company’s vibration monitoring stations that Jakubec said is “junk science” and “shoddy scientific data collection methods”.
Jakubec said in looking at the sensor, he called the manufacturer of the one used and was told that two other types would be far better to use to monitor vibration in the bedrock, as the one on Prince Albert Road, north of Brook Line is not even in contact with the bedrock because the method of constructing well casings in this area.
The one in use also, visibly, is not making full contact with the casing and is 150 metres from a busy roadway.