Residents in North Kent met Oct. 13 to vent their anger at Chatham-Kent council and the environmental tribunal process relating to the North Kent Wind 1 turbine project.
More than 150 people packed into a meeting room at Countryview Golf Course to listen to Water Wells First member and activist Kevin Jakubec explain his reasons for exiting the tribunal process recently. He has been trying to bring environmental and health concerns to the province in light of the issues with well water contamination in Dover.
Under a banner reading, “Mayor covers up Dover wells,” Jakubec explained his frustration with having to withdraw from the tribunal process earlier this month, given that he was not allowed a 14-day extension to get the results of a toxicity report on the black water from wells in Dover. He attributes that black water to the vibration from the construction and ongoing operation of wind turbines.
He is concerned the Kettle Point black shale that is underneath a large area in Dover has heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic as well as radon gas.
He added that when the mayor responded to the end of the tribunal process, which the municipality had standing in, Randy Hope quoted the Golder report from the wind turbine company, using that one document to satisfy him that there were no problems caused by the turbines. The document was never actually presented as evidence as the tribunal process was halted.
“I’m really pissed off at Randy Hope and (legal council) John Norton. I’m under a seal not to speak about the proceedings and they jump off on the press,” Jakubec said.
“What Mayor is presented with a water issue with wells as black as the samples here tonight and doesn’t ask, ‘how many wells are we talking about?’” Jakubec said to the crowd. “I’m calling a spade a spade; he’s covering up what happened in Dover and it’s what will happen with North Kent Wind 1 and Otter Creek.”
Neither the mayor nor Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health, returned phone calls by press time.
North Kent Wind 1 (NKW1) is the project currently waiting for permit approval to proceed with the project. In the works is the Otter Creek project north of Wallaceburg that has yet to start the public permit process.
A common theme through the evening, with Dover residents bringing in and passing around samples of their well water with black particles throughout, was anger with Chatham-Kent and a feeling they were disrespected when making deputations to council back in August regarding the North Kent Wind 1 project.
Mike deBakker, a member of Water Wells First and resident in the proposed Otter Creek project area, said the residents there are taking note of the issues in Dover and have huge concerns with the construction of more turbines without investigation and protection for the residents and their wells.
Jakubec talked about civil disobedience if Chatham-Kent council doesn’t take steps to investigate the Dover well situation, including withholding taxes and peaceful protest. He encouraged citizens to keep watch over and take video of any actions or construction started by the turbine companies to make sure they are doing what they agreed to in the permit for NKW1.
One resident, Marc St. Pierre, who lives on Bay Line in Dover, spoke about his well problem that goes back almost 10 years when turbines first went in; a problem that has gotten progressively worse over the last two and half years as more turbines surrounded his property.
“I have six turbines within a quarter mile of my home and I’m here to tell you, filtration does not work. We can’t drink the water, or cook with it. We are still bathing with it and using it for laundry,” St. Pierre said. “Even our cats won’t drink it. We collect rain water for them.”
The Bay Line resident said when he went to speak to council, and told them about the double filtration system he uses to try and at least get clear water, council didn’t even pay to attention to what he was saying because they were too busy texting and looking at their laptops.
He spoke emotionally about the fact he and his wife have fostered 70 children in the 37 years they have lived on that property, and at the time, his well water was tested and found clean by the Children’s Aid Society. Now we would never be able to foster and has been told by a realtor that his house could never be sold with the water issue they have.
“Once I was done talking, the mayor finally looked up and waved me away, saying, ‘next’,” St. Pierre said. “That was the respect he gave me and it cut deep. I will never forget it. I told the mayor we were in a state of emergency with no usable water and he asked ‘who’s next?’”
St. Pierre added that he has never been contacted by the municipality.
Residents Wayne Blue and Michelle Howes, who also addressed council, said they had similar experiences, feeling like they were not only ignored, but disrespected their deputation.
Blue, whose well problems include large black particles and sand in his water, said his cats won’t drink the water either, even with the filtration system he installed, and when he uses his hose to wash the mud off his truck, it dries with particles stuck all over it.
“I stand by what I said; council is a bunch of assholes,” Blue said at the meeting.
North Kent Coun. Leon LeClair was the lone municipal politician to attend the meeting. He faced harsh criticism from Jakubec and Water Wells First members.
“If there is any proof, I will look into it,” LeClair told the crowd. “I did support the wind projects. No one came forward then. If I made a mistake supporting the wind turbines, I want to make it right.”
He agreed to sit down with Jakubec and go over the permit for NKW1, but said as far as council is concerned, “their hands are tied.
“Going forward, I’ll see what I can do,” LeClair added. “The mayor supports water wells, but he doesn’t want to jeopardize the money and neither do I.”
Jakubec, speaking to LeClair said, “Leon, support us by instead of spending money on Grassy (an on-the-water rock concert on Lake St. Clair), spend it on a well survey and get us a copy of the Willing Host agreement signed between the turbine companies and council.
“You should not put one more pile in the ground until Dover is addressed,” Jakubec added. “Don’t go ahead with Otter Creek; fix the original problem. Prove to the community you can fix the original problem before you move ahead and turn North Kent into the new Love Canal of the wind industry.”
Chatham Coun. Mike Bondy, who has been the most verbal in his concern for the quality of water in the Dover wells, was to make a notice of motion at Monday’s council meeting to point out that the municipality has had no representation on the Thames Sydenham Source Protection Region, Source Protection Committee since 2014, an appointment previously held by Sheldon Parsons.
Bondy, in his notice, wants the municipality request a representative on the Source Protection Committee immediately; a committee put in place by the Ontario Clean Water Act as a means to identify all drinking water threats.
Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Rick Nicholls also attended the meeting and said there is definitely a crisis with water wells in Dover.
“Since 2012, I’ve been sending letters to the government and I told people then to get their water tested,” Nicholls said. “I will be asking questions of the premier and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change within the next couple of weeks and I want to invite you all to Queen’s Park to be present when the questions are asked.”
He said the Ontario government claims it is very concerned with water quality but also has a pending water well crisis here.
“They better sit up and take notice. If we lose these wells, there will be some serious issues down the road.
“I don’t believe in being politically correct, I believe in doing what is right,” Nicholls added. “I am prepared to go to war over this on your behalf.”