Thanks to close observation by Water Wells First, a potential hazard to the underground aquifer north of Chatham has been ordered fixed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE).
According to WWF spokesperson Kevin Jakubec, the Ministry of Environment sent staff to North Kent Wind turbine construction site on Darrell Line June 28 and to investigate complaints from WWF about improper capping and sealing of the base steel pipes pile-driven into the ground to form the foundation of the turbine. Jakubec said the MOE agreed with the group that the base of the first tower was not properly capped and sealed to prevent rainwater from entering the underground aquifer. It has ordered the company to seal the steel pipe supports and the company will be complying.
Jakubec and members of WWF have been monitoring the site to ensure the construction of the turbine follows proper procedure and what is expected in the agreement with the MOE.
In an e-mail to the municipality building inspection department regarding the unsealed pipes, Jakubec outlined in detail the problem he observed.
“Please investigate this matter and stop construction of North Kent 1 until a suitable type of pile that does not create a hydrological connection to the aquifer is chosen by North Kent 1 executives and engineers,” Jakubec wrote in his e-mail. “It’s important for all the families in North Chatham-Kent who depend on their water wells to see our building inspection department hold the wind developer accountable and protect our natural groundwater resources.”
WWF called out Mayor Randy Hope last week with a press conference outside of City Hall, asking him to join the WWF “outside and add your voice to ours for calling for a proper and full investigation by the MOECC into the aquifer contamination occurring in North Chatham-Kent.”
The mayor’s office responded to the email request to participate in the press conference by press release and said, “The Municipality of Chatham-Kent continues to be at the very forefront of addressing concerns of water quality for residents throughout the municipality,” Hope said.
“I have, with the full support of council and administration, consistently supported our citizens,” he said. “As recently as April, I wrote to Glen Murray, Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change notifying him of local concerns and asking that the province use its technical and legislative power to ensure all necessary steps are being taken to ensure water quality would not be compromised.”
Hope pointed out that although the municipality doesn’t have the power to approve or prohibit the construction of turbines, it has consistently acted as an advocate for residents.
On Aug. 22 of last year, council instructed its Chief Legal Officer John Norton to participate in the Environmental Review Tribunal hearing and to “take all steps necessary” to protect Chatham-Kent citizens.
“We received party standing and were prepared to be full participants in an Environmental Review Tribunal last fall but the hearing was cancelled after Kevin Jakubec reached a settlement with the wind farm developers and ministry.”
Hope said despite repeated requests from the municipality, Water Wells First has yet to provide any scientific evidence which links water quality to wind farm development.
“We see jars of water with sediment but there has been nothing brought to the municipality that indicates there is any connection,” he said. “If there is any evidence, the group needs to bring it forward to authorities.”
North Kent Wind, as part of its Renewable Energy Approval and with the guidance and approval of the MOECC, has been conducting water well testing for local well owners. Otter Creek Wind has also, voluntarily, agreed to conduct water well testing for local well owners.