Mayor asks province for action on water well issue

Aug 18 • Feature Story, Local NewsNo Comments on Mayor asks province for action on water well issue

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Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope today sent a letter to Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Control (MOECC) Chris Ballard, asking for him to take immediate action on complaints from residents with bad wells in the North Kent Wind Farm (NKW1) project area.

Hope has been criticized extensively by the local group Water Wells First (WWF), which has been working for the past year to get all levels of government to listen to its concerns about Kettle Point black shale contaminating wells after construction of wind turbines began. The group has called for the mayor and legal council John Norton’s resignation due to lack of action regarding complaints of contaminated wells.

“Water Wells First demands Mr. Norton and the mayor immediately resign from their offices. The members ask for widespread support from the municipality in demanding these resignations,” Kevin Jakubec, spokesperson for WWF said.

WWF alleges that the municipality, as 15-per-cent owner of the NKW1 project, had a conflict of interest in asking Pattern Energy employee Jody Law to release information Aug. 3 to the media about the testing results of Jessica and Paul Brooks’ well that contradicted evidence of contamination witnessed by several people at a press conference earlier that week.

The Brooks are one of five well owners to complain since work began on the NKW1 project.

The statement by Norton was made in an e-mail thread Aug. 2-3 between Coun. Leon Leclair, Hope, Norton and Law, which was copied to Jessica and given to WWF. At that time, the only information council had was what was relayed to them by Law, that “the sample was visually clear” and there was “no empirical evidence of an issue.”

Jakubec said his group will also being making complaints to the Ontario Ombudsman regarding the mayor and Norton.

In a phone interview with The Voice, Hope said, responding to WWF allegations of directing Pattern Energy communications, said the intent was to encourage the company to “convey information to the broader public.

“That’s something I do; something we’ve always done. It’s not our responsibility; it’s not our information and if you as a reporter call me about details of a report, what would I be able to say other than what I’m reading,” Mayor Hope said. “The corporation responsible under the REA, which is Pattern Energy, with this wind project, it is important to us that they communicate with the broader public and this is what John Norton has told Pattern and I’ll tell Otter Creek and have told them, since wind projects were coming here, that they need to communicate better with the residents.”

And Hope insists there is no conflict of interest.

“No there is no conflict of interest. Everything is done by scientific base under the REA permit, when they made application for this project, certain compliance they would need to deal with. Government is the one that sets the rules and construction of the wind project are the ones responsible to reply,” Hope said.

Now, however, that conflicting information on the test results of contaminated wells has been made known to council, Hope has authored a letter to the MOECC and Leclair told North Kent residents at a press conference Thursday that a notice of motion was coming to council Aug. 21 to “put feet to the fire” regarding MOECC inaction on addressing residents concerns of the safety of their water.

Below, is the letter from the Mayor to Ballard, dated today:

“I am seeking your immediate intervention on the issue of well water quality as it regards to the North Kent One wind project being developed by Pattern Energy and Samsung in our community.

“Since pile driving for the turbines began earlier this month, a number of residents have come forward with complaints of turbidity, discolouration and sediment from wells on their property, which had previously been base-tested and found to be within acceptable limits.

“Conflicting information in tests completed by the firm hired by the developer, those of residents and those the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change have created fear and concern among residents who use the wells as their primary source for drinking water.

“That concern has grown due to lack of public statements and investigation by MOECC officials.

“Access to wind farm sites have been blocked by local farmers and residents worried about the health of their families due to possible water contamination.

“Under the Green Energy Act passed by your government, Chatham-Kent does not have the legal authority to intervene in the construction or operation of wind farms or the jurisdiction to determine environmental effects which may occur during their construction or operation.

‘Therefore, I am calling on the ministry and yourself to assume a leadership role.

“The ministry cannot remain silent on this very important issue.

“It must fulfill its mandate and responsibility to the residents of our community and provide open, transparent information to our municipal council and the general public as to real or potential risks to the aquifer, residents’ health and remedial action needed to ensure water quality.

‘This is an extremely urgent matter which demands immediate, decisive action from your ministry and government.

“I await your prompt response.”

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