Jessica Brooks in front of water tank that the construction company says they will remove.
Chatham, ON – Eleven Chatham area well owners have now filed water well interference complaints with the Ontario government following the start of construction on a 34 turbine wind power project near their farms. The Council of Canadians is demanding work stop on the project following this 11th complaint.
The developer, North Kent Wind One (owned by Samsung Energy and Pattern Energy), started pile driving for the first turbine foundation in late June. Some of the 11 wells affected to date have become so silted up that water no longer flows through the system. The company provided water tanks to two of the well owners last month, but yesterday it told those two families that it would be removing the water tanks, claiming the well problems were not caused by construction activities.
“We have lived here for decades and we have had crystal clear well water up to now,” said Lucy DeFraeye who filed a well interference complaint yesterday after her well and household plumbing were infiltrated with black silt. “Why on Earth are so many families losing their wells if it is not due to the construction? How many more will be harmed before the government acts?”
The DeFraeye family paid to have their well water tested in June before construction began. They were concerned they might soon have the same problem faced by dozens of families in neighbouring Dover Township whose wells now contain high levels of black silt after the construction of wind turbines in the area over the last eight years. Both counties sit atop the Kettle Point black shale bedrock formation.
When the steel pilings of turbine foundations are driven into the shale, the vibrations cause black silt to enter water wells nearby. There is also ample evidence that even long after construction, certain wind conditions cause the turbines to vibrate and black silt appears in area wells again.
Last year, Kevin Jakubec, the spokesperson for Water Wells First – a local group formed out of concern that the proposed North Kent Wind One project would harm Chatham-Kent water wells – challenged the provincial approval of the project at the Environmental Review Tribunal. Several expert witnesses testified that the Kettle Point black shale formation could send silt into the overlying aquifer when vibrated and that wind turbines could transmit vibrations through their pilings anchored in the bedrock, causing problems up to several kilometres away. Jakubec entered a mediated settlement with the developers before the end of the hearings.
“I was afraid that the Environmental Review Tribunal would not rule in our favour so I settled for certain conditions being attached to the approval in hopes that they would protect people if there were problems,” said Jakubec. “Those conditions have been breached multiple times already and families are losing their water – but the Ontario government has done nothing to help. They seem incapable of admitting that they were wrong to allow this project to go ahead despite all the warnings. I support wind power, I have a small wind turbine that produces electricity for my farm. This isn’t about whether wind power is good or bad. This is about a poorly designed project wrecking our water and a government that is so deeply beholden to the interests of billion-dollar corporations that it refuses to protect its own citizens.”
Last week, North Kent One Wind sought an injunction and an award of legal costs against protestors who had been blocking access to one of the 34 turbine construction sites. A hearing on the injunction is set for September 28. The protestors were ordered not to further block or otherwise interfere with any construction activities.
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 the blockade site in August to support the community.
“It is inexcusable that the Ontario government is refusing to halt construction in the face of the overwhelming evidence that harm is being done,” said Mark Calzavara, Ontario Organizer for the Council of Canadians. “Families shouldn't have to choose between polluted well water and fines and jail time. The Wynne government must order the construction to stop now.”