With the lives of people with contaminated wells in Dover and Chatham townships still in limbo when it comes to clean water, a Chatham-Kent woman has been working to open discussions with local politicians regarding water lines.
Unless new information comes to light, those water lines won’t be free, however, according to the municipality.
Jackie Girard, a resident of Chatham Township and member of Water Wells First, wants to clear up “misinformation, rumours and misleading statements” in the public about her attempts to discuss providing water lines to affected residents.
In an interview with The Chatham Voice, Girard said the Water Wells First group has been tweeting comments that make it look like she is trying to get people to sign up for “free” water lines in a “coercive” manner. She said that is simply not true.
“I am working on getting municipal water to the people who are affected, and the municipality is on board,” Girard said. “I have not been going door to door and nobody is being asked to sign anything. There is a lot of misinformation out there; rumours, fear-mongering and misleading statements.”
The WWF tweets are cautioning people to not give out any personal information and be wary of “free” waterlines.
Girard said the people with affected wells can’t wait years for the science to prove that the wind turbine construction and operation are the cause of sediment contamination in the wells, a number which has now reached approximately 35 homes in the North Kent Wind 1 area alone.
“That’s going to take 10 years at least. Look at Navistar. It was 10 years before it was settled and that was when everyone knew they owed that money to their employees,” Girard said. “It’s unfair to make people wait 10 years for clean water.”
In speaking with the municipality, Girard said she is waiting to hear from CAO Don Shropshire about a meeting to discuss the issue.
“We’re just starting out, looking at costs and how many people are involved. This is just the exploratory phase. We need to find out how many people are affected and go from there,” she noted.
Speaking to The Voice, Shropshire said, in response to the possibility of supplying water lines to affected residents, that he did have a discussion with Girard before Christmas about water lines, but said at this point, they are waiting for the province to announce the results of their review of all the documentation on the clogged wells.
“The province committed to an additional review of the well documentation, and we are waiting for that. We have requested they release that information,” Shropshire said. “Right now, we have residents who have been promised that information and they are still waiting.”
He noted, currently, if residents want to discuss connecting to municipal water, they need to contact the C-K PUC, and they would need to pay the cost of that connection. He said if new information came forward about the cause of the damage to the wells, they would certainly take a new look at the issue.
Living in the middle of the NKW1 area, Girard said her home is hooked up to municipal water. She said 15 years ago, the municipality brought in a water line by her house so she chose to pay to hook into it then. For her, the value of her property will be the same, but the people with bad wells have seen a significant drop in the resale value of their homes.
Girard confirmed that she still believes a health hazard investigation needs to take place and the aquifer needs to be protected from further contamination. She is just part of the membership who wants to see people get clean water now rather than later.
In its Twitter campaign, the WWF posts caution the public to not sign anything and to question the concept of “free” water lines. It also conveys the message that they do not believe the municipality, or any other shareholder in the NKW1 turbine project will ever provide free water lines.
Girard has spoken with 23 people in Chatham township and three in Dover who are interested in the water lines and will continue to speak with affected families.