Water well safety plan questioned

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent wants to know how Hydro One will protect water wells in North Kent during the construction of the new St. Clair transmission line.

After discussing the matter at its regular meeting Nov. 27, council voted to send a letter to ask the utility what it plans to do to keep water wells – some that are already compromised – safe.

The original motion, put forward by North Kent Coun. Rhonda Jubenville, asked Hydro One to undertake baseline water quality testing before, after, and during construction. But after discussion and a friendly amendment by North Kent Coun. Jamie McGrail, council settled on sending a letter asking for more information and how it will ensure the “integrity” of wells is protected in all of its local projects.

Jubenville told council she brought the motion forward because “we are all well aware of the history of the water wells and aquifer issues in Ward 4 North Kent. I just want to be proactive in the potential of future issues that could occur to the integrity of the wells along the transmission line corridor,” Jubenville said.

“Many families in North Kent have already lost their wells and the possibility of it happening again is frightening to many of these families, ” she added. “Everyone of us deserves access to clean water for all personal and household uses.”

Jubenville pointed out there is no specific reference to water wells in the draft report from Hydro One, but it does specifically reference items such as farmer’s lands and tile drains.

Chatham Coun. Michael Bondy questioned the change in the motion that called for testing, adding he thought the amended motion “seem to lose its teeth.”

Chatham Coun. Brock McGregor and Wallaceburg Coun. Aaron Hall said they both supported the amendment.

Hall stressed that council has received a deputation from Hydro One that said the utility is “working with well owners in the area already.

“They’re already connecting with community members in the area that are impacted by this,” Hall said.

Mayor Darrin Canniff said he wants the public to know that Hydro One has committed to not pile drive or touch the aquifer.

“Those are points they are looking at to have further meetings with groups to look at the best solution possible,” Canniff said.

The new St. Clair transmission line is one of several major projects Hydro One has planned to boost the region’s power supply. It begins south of Courtright in St. Clair Township, extending through Chatham-Kent with part of the route traversing a section of the former Chatham Township.

The 230-kilovolt line will connect the Lambton transmission station with the Chatham transmission station. New towers will be installed and significant upgrades will be carried out at the Lambton, Chatham and Wallaceburg transformer stations.

Part of the 62-kilometre line routes through a section of farmland where property owners have already witnessed the deterioration of water wells said to be caused by the operation of wind turbines. Some of the wells can no longer be used, spewing brackish water unfit for human consumption.

Those in the affected area maintain their wells were ruined by the construction and use of wind turbine farms, including those operated by the North Kent Wind Farm.

Two in-person deputations from property owners in the former Chatham Township were presented to council at the start of the meeting.

Water Wells First members Calvin Simmons and Kevin Jakubec asked the municipality to push Hydro One to conduct a groundwater baseline test to ensure water wells along the route are protected.

According to Jakubec, the decision to ask for baseline well testing is based on recommendations from an expert panel, comprised of a hydro geologist, a bedrock geologist, a well driller and an academic researcher from the University of Windsor.

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