North Kent Wind proponents unmoved by families’ reports of well water contamination
“Not possible,” wind power developer says, that 12 wells failed simultaneously from pile-driving for wind turbine construction. Nope, it wasn’t us.
October 4, 2017
By Jeffrey Carter
The art of deflection may have risen to new heights during a community meeting organized by the proponents of the North Kent Wind project, on September 21 in Chatham-Kent.
Dr.* Storer Boone, a geotechnical engineer with Golder Associates, said it is “not possible” that pile-driving has led to well water complaints, given the distances between turbine sites and nearby wells.
Jason Murchison, a hydrogeologist with the firm AECON, also said there is no reason for concern.
“We haven’t seen any impact in the wells we’ve investigated,” he said. “Nothing we’ve seen is any different from the baseline.”
Beth O’Brien, a spokesperson with Pattern Energy, said the majority shareholders of the project, Pattern and Samsung, have been delivering fresh water to some area residents who say their wells have been contaminated. However, that’s not an admission of liability.
“Were doing it to be good neighbours. Right now, if we hear a complaint, we supply them with fresh water.”
The companies, however, will not be laying lines to deliver municipal water to residents, O’Brien said.
According to Kevin Jakubec, spokesperson for the Water Wells First citizens’ group, 12 wells affecting 14 families, have been contaminated with Kettle Point Black Shale due to pile driving, so far. Well water in the area is drawn from about 50 to 70 feet below the soil surface.
The aquifer is located within a layer of glacial till about 50 to 70 feet below the soil surface and just above the bedrock.
While Boone dismissed the notion of vibration-related contamination, he said bedrock particles, many invisible to the human eye, are located in the till layer where residents draw their water.
It is those particles that are the source of the contamination, according to Jakubec and other members of Water Wells First. They said it showed up in the affected wells shortly after pile-driving began and is also associated with vibrations created as the huge [wind] turbine blades rotate.
Peter Hensel, a resident of the former Township of Dover, is among those who say they’ve been impacted.
During a taped conversation, Hensel said he had his well, from which he’s been drinking for seven decades, tested in 2012 before the wind farm in his area was commissioned, and retested four years later.
“My uranium is up 500 times from what it was before. My arsenic is up 20 times from what it was before, as are many of the other heavy metals and elements I have in my water, some of which exceed the Ontario drinking water standards,” Hensel said.
“The only thing that’s happened within my general area, 1520 holes were punched through my aquifer. All of a sudden, my water is cloudy.”
Water Wells First has asked that the sediment in the water be tested but so far, neither the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change [or the developer] has complied. As a result, Water Wells First has paid for its own tests, which will soon be released.
Pattern and Samsung each have a 35 percent stake in the North Kent Wind project. Other partners include Walpole Island First Nation with a 15 percent stake and the Municipality of Chatham-Kent with a 15 percent stake through Entegrus Inc.
The Municipality, despite its investment, has called for the project’s halt.
Councillor Joe Faas, who attended the September 21 meeting, said “It’s apparent there’s groundwater concern,” and called for a thorough investigation to determine the cause.
Samples of contaminated well water are either cloudy or solid brown in colour and have a disagreeable odour and taste.
Editor’s note: the wind power developers filed for an injunction against Water Wells First and community members demonstrating against the project; they were successful, in a decision announced this week.
Wind Concerns Ontario is advising anyone near this power project experiencing problems or changes to their well water to contact the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Spills Action Line at 1-800-268-8080. Be sure to provide your address, distance from any turbine or turbine construction activity (though this may or may not be relevant), and what the changes are to your water. BE SURE TO GET AN INCIDENT REPORT NUMBER from the staff member you speak to.
*Mr. Boone has a PhD in engineering; he is not a medical doctor.