Ontario government fails to protect drinking water from Samsung energy project

The Council of Canadians Windsor-Essex and London chapter visited the community blockade of the North Kent Wind project construction site in late-August. Windsor-Essex chapter activist Randy Emerson says, "We were there to protect the Kettle Point Black Shale aquifer."

The Council of Canadians is deeply concerned by the impact pile-driving construction activities - for the 34-turbine North Kent Wind project - are having on drinking water for residents in the Chatham, Ontario area.

The North Kent Wind project is a joint venture of the South Korean-based transnational Samsung and its US-based partner Pattern Energy.

The Chatham Daily News now reports, "[Water Wells First activist Kevin] Jakubec [says] 18 water wells in two townships – 13 in Chatham Township and five in Dover Township – with a common pollution problem of sediments – have been brought to the attention of the [Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change - the MOECC] ...'and there's been nothing back from them'..."

The newspaper further notes, "For more than a year, [Water Wells First] has raised concerns that vibrations from the construction and operation of industrial wind turbines will cause heavy metal-laden Kettle Point black shale – which makes up the bedrock on which the area's ground water aquifer is located – to shake loose and get into the water. The black shale is known to contain heavy metals that are danger to human health, including uranium, arsenic and lead."

The article highlights, "Residents seeing impacts on their water wells from nearby wind turbine construction are concerned they will no longer have a strong advocate at their side. [That's because the MOECC says Jakubec cannot be present when its staff comes to test their water.] ...[Jakubec] said the ministry knows he will advise property owners to ask why the MOECC isn't collecting sediment samples, because that is the common pollutant being seen in wells that are going bad. ...[The permit granted by the MOECC for the project doesn't require testing of] the sediments..."

The MOECC fought against community efforts to have heavy metal testing added as a condition for the permit, also known as the Renewable Energy Approval or REA. Now the MOECC is doing turbidity tests for heavy metals dissolved in the water, but Jakubec says it should be looking in the sediments.

Council of Canadians organizer Mark Calzavara says, "It is inexcusable that the Ontario government is refusing to halt construction in the face of the overwhelming evidence that harm is being done.”

The Council of Canadians provided non-violent civil disobedience training to dozens of local residents last May and Council of Canadians chapters from Windsor and London travelled to a community blockade of the construction site in August. In September, Council of Canadians honorary chairperson Maude Barlow spoke in solidarity at a Water Wells First public forum near Chatham.

The Council of Canadians supports wind power as a sustainable energy alternative to the environmental harms associated with fossil fuels and hydroelectric power, but we also recognize that any major energy project can have environmental implications that must be fully assessed (including impacts on drinking water).

To read the full Chatham Daily News article, please click here.