Province, turbine firms face EPA charges

Jul 30 • Feature Story, Local News1 Comment on Province, turbine firms face EPA charges

After years of dirty, undrinkable water, a Chatham-Kent woman will get her day in court after bringing her complaint about wind farms turbines contaminating her well water to a Justice of the Peace.

According to previously published media reports, on July 12 an Ontario Justice of the Peace determined there are “reasonable and probable grounds” to bring charges under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) against Ontario Environment Minister Jeff Yurek, the Ministry of the Environment and three industrial wind companies with projects in Chatham-Kent — Pattern Energy Group, Samsung Renewable Energy Inc., who operate the North Kent Wind 1 and 2 projects in the former Dover and Chatham townships, and Engie Canada Inc. which operates the East St. Clair wind farm.

Christine Burke, a well owner in the East St. Clair wind farm project area, brought the complaint to the courts and is called as a witness so was unable to comment on the matter.

According to court documents obtained by the media, the three respondent companies are charged under the EPA with “unlawfully discharging contaminants, including black shale and potentially hazardous metals into the natural environment in an unlawful manner that caused, or is likely to cause, an adverse effect.”

Both the Ministry of the Environment and the minister have been charged for allegedly “failing to take all reasonable care to prevent the installation and operation of the wind turbines” at the wind farms, which resulted in the well water contamination.

According to Burke’s lawyer, Eric Gillespie, any person residing in the province can launch a private prosecution by appearing before a justice of the peace and swearing under oath about an alleged violation of the law, including offences under the EPA. The justice of the peace must then determine if there are “reasonable and probable grounds” that offences may have been committed.

In a story reported previously in The Chatham Voice, a recorded conversation between Burke in the East St. Clair wind farm project area and the director of operations for the wind farm company, the official admitted wells were contaminated by turbidity during pile driving, and owners were given filtration systems to fix the problem.

Burke, a well owner who has had black water issues since the East St. Clair turbines were constructed in 2012, called GDF Suez director of operations Augusto Di Maria in August 2017 to ask for help with her well issue. In the 30-minute conversation, Burke asked Di Maria if he was aware of well issues. He replied he was aware of issues in the pile driving phase of construction that was making the well water of “six to eight well owners, maybe more” murky.

“When you’re breaking through the earth, that’s a lot of force, I can understand that,” Di Maria said regarding why wells might go turbid during pile driving. “I did see well issues when we punched the piles through the earth, at that point in time there was a disturbance and that makes sense.”

Di Maria went on to say that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), as well as the Municipality of Chatham-Kent were informed of the well complaints back in 2012.

The province, the wind companies, the municipality and Water Wells First have all declined to comment while the matter is before the courts.

The court date to hear the matter is set for Aug. 14 in the Ontario Court of Justice location on Communication Road just south of Highway 401.

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