October 9, 2018
FINCH, Ontario — If the approval signed by the Wynne government for the Nation Rise wind power project were a bird, it probably wouldn’t be able to fly, because it is so weighted down with conditions.
One of those conditions was that the power developer, EDP of Spain, identify and map all water wells in the project area near the proposed wind turbines, because of concerns about the construction activities on the local aquifer.
That hasn’t happened, say residents. Now, signs are popping up all over the country roads and in the communities of North Stormont, as part of an information campaign about risk to the local water supply, and to demand that wells be identified and tested by the developer. Residents are concerned about the impact of vibration from pending wind turbine construction and turbine operations on their water wells.
The “Nation Rise” wind power project is currently under appeal, but the power developer is supposed to be proceeding with meeting the terms and conditions of its contract with the Ontario government, which was approved just days before the June election.
One of those conditions is that the company identify certain wells and “make reasonable efforts, to the satisfaction of the Ministry [of the Environment], to contact owners of all active water wells within 1 km from each individual Equipment, communication tower, and meteorological towers, and seek permission to undertake a groundwater survey at existing water wells. “
The problem is, EDP’s count of the number of water wells that need identification and testing does not correspond to the summary of the situation in the Renewable Energy Approval or REA. As a result, wells may be missed in the pre-construction survey and then be ineligible for help should problems arise after the power project is built.
According to Margaret Benke, spokesperson for Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, the power developer may be off by as much as 50 per cent of area wells.
People are worried, Benke says, for several reasons: a wind power project in the Chatham-Kent area is linked to disrupted function and outright failure of as many as 10 percent of area wells, resulting in contaminated “black” water. The situation is so dire that the new Ontario government has pledged an investigation of the situation.
The wells in North Stormont depend on an aquifer that has been designated as “highly vulnerable,” she says. The signs being posted at the end of North Stormont driveways say “EDP we want our well water tested.”
“We do not want EDP to be able to say that they did not know that we have wells,” Benke explains. “They counted only 444 domestic wells within 2 km of a turbine/infrastructure, although there are 816 residences in the same area. As long as this project continues to proceed, we want our wells taken into consideration for health and safety.”
That count does not include wells used by local farm operations for livestock, which could also be affected by the vibration from construction and turbine operation.
The danger to water supply was one of the principal issues noted in the appeal launched against the project, and appears also to be a concern to the provincial environment ministry, reflected in the conditions in the project approval. In fact, even though the appeal had already begun, the power developer actually filed notice that it was changing the construction method for the wind turbines, which have huge concrete foundations. This material change to the project has never been subjected to public scrutiny and was not part of the company’s documentation on the project.
“It’s not good enough,” says Benke. “We’ve seen what happened to the people in North Kent, some of whom still don’t have any water, not even to take a bath or shower—any damage to the aquifer could be serious and irreversible harm to the environment, and a risk to human health.”
The appeal resumes October 15th in Finch Ontario, with testimony from an expert in hydrogeology.
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