Wind turbines to blame for well water problems: hydrogeologist
November 12, 2017
Well water problems continue in Chatham-Kent with neither the wind power developer consortium, the municipality (which is part of the developer consortium), or the Ontario Ministry of the Environment responding to citizens’ concerns about altered well water. People have complained about Black Water coming from their wells, or so much sediment that the wells stop working entirely.
Here is an excerpt from the current edition of Ontario Farmer, which contains interviews with two experts on water wells.
Of concern to Wind Concerns Ontario is not only the lack of acknowledgement, explanation or effective resolution but also the fact that yet another wind power project on the same hydrogeology is being considered for approval. Ontario needs answers as more projects on fragile hydrogeology are pushed forward.
Hydrologist blames turbines for well water issues
By Jeffrey Carter, ONTARIO FARMER
Ontario’s MInistry of the Environment and Climate Change should have already stopped the North Kent project in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, according to hydrogeologist Bill Clarke.
It’s clear many wells have been compromised due to the vibrations created by wind turbine construction and by their operation, he said. Less clear is the level of risk for the people drinking the water. There are just too many unknowns to make a definitive statement on the matter.
Clarke, who is near retirement after a 40-year career in Ontario, has been working with Water Wells First citizens’ group that stands in opposition to wind farm development in the area, given the fragile nature of the aquifer.
“There are 13 families who are seeing a change in their water supply,” he said.
“Quantity is the issue now but not necessarily water quality. What’s happening is that particulate matter is getting loosened up at the base of the wells. In my opinion, there is well interference — there is no doubt.”
Clarke said well interference is something covered under the Ontario Water Resources Act and the situation should have raised a red flag for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (#MOECC).
Proponents of the North Kent Wind project, consultants hired by the developers, have said that turbine construction has had no impact on the wells, despite the visual evidence that suggests otherwise. In the case of the complaints, which now number 14 according to Water Wells First, problems only arose after turbine pile-driving operations began.
Clarke said the consultants are correct in one respect: sediment shaken loose below the area where the turbines are being erected is not a concern. However, few people, experts included, have recognized the extreme delicate nature of this particular aquifer. The vibrations from pile-driving, and even from those created by the rotation of the huge turbine blades, are an issue at the well locations themselves. This accounts for particles from the underlying bedrock — Kettle [Point Black Shale] — being found in the contaminated wells.
The aquifer is very fragile
“The aquifer is very fragile and what we didn’t know before this all began is how fragile it is … They [the ministry] are being reluctant to get involved and, subsequently making a decision,” Clarke said.
Filtering systems have proven ineffective. Some have quickly clogged up within days or even hours of being put into operation. This may explain why the wind farm developers have offered to supply municipal and bottled water to affected well owners, though liability is still denied.
Also weighing in on the nature of the aquifer was Craig Stanton, executive director of the Ontario Groundwater Association. He said it’s long been known that when water is drawn too quickly from the area’s aquifer, cloudiness can become an issue.
“A lot of those wells are only good for a gallon or two per minute because if you were to pump harder, you would disturb that till with water pressure,” he said.
Kettle [Point Black Shale] is the bedrock underlying much of Southwestern Ontario. Across the northern part of Chatham-Kent, it’s located within 50 to 70 feet of the soil surface.
The “sweet water” lies in a layer of glacial till just above the bedrock. Particles of the bedrock are mixed into the aquifer layer.\
Clarke, while convinced that water wells have been compromised by the wind far development, said the level of risk from a human safety perspective, is unknown at this point.
In a well water evaluation conducted for Peter Hensel, just south of Wallaceburg*, uranium, barium and selenium were all flagged under the Ontario Water [Resources Act]. Unfortunately, due to test limitations, the level of uranium and selenium detected could not be determined. The level of barium did exceed the standard but only marginally.
Questions sent to the MOECC concerning the potential health threat from Hensel’s 2016 results were not answered. Hensel has not yet supplied the MOECC with his 2016 results although a copy was given to Ontario Farmer. The MOECC has also not answered why, in its own 2017 test of Hensel’s water, metals were not included in the evaluation.
The same questions sent to the MOECC were sent to Ontario’s environment minister Chris Ballard’s office. So far, there’s been no reply from the minister’s office.
They should have known …
According to Stainton and Clarke, an evaluation of metal content is a standard part of most water tests.
“Why would you test for just part of the Periodic Table, and who made the decision (at the MOECC) on what they would or wouldn’t test for?” Stainton asked. “It certainly seems to me suspect, and they should have known these things are in the black shale.”
Stainton and Clarke are both puzzled by the MOECC’s reluctance to investigate the situation further,. Especially since concerns were raised prior to the start of construction on the North Kent Wind project.
“I believe if they had been listening, they never would have allowed North Kent to move forward because they should have learned their lessons in Dover. There should have been so many red flags going up that they should have said no,” Stainton said.
… a spokesperson with the MOECC [told Ontario Farmer] that the Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health has determined there is no risk from the particulates in the water in the absence of bacterial contamination.
*The MOECC is now contemplating approval of yet another wind power project on the same hydrogeology, the Otter Creek wind power project. A citizens’ group has formed: the Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns.