Contaminants of concern identified by expert panel; more well water samples needed to confirm health risk
April 6, 2022
With two months to go before the 2022 Ontario provincial election, the government released the report from the Expert Panel for the All-Hazard Investigation of Well Water in Chatham-Kent on Monday evening, via a letter to residents.
The government announced a review in 2019, and in 2021 named the expert panel that would be conducting an “investigation into well water quality and any potential health risks associated with consumption of well water in the North Kent 1 area.”
The study area was in proximity to the North Kent 1 wind power project, constructed during 2017 and which began commercial operation in February, 2018.
“Local residents have complained of a perceived impact on the quality of their well water during and following construction of North Kent 1,” according the the report, “citing increased turbidity, discoloration and the presence of sediment that might include particles of the Kettle Point black shale.”
The black shale is the underlying bedrock formation in the area.
Water quality is poor
The Expert Panel came to three conclusions:
“The general water quality in the Study Area is rather poor as indicated by numerous exceedences for multiple aesthetic parameters.”
Comparison of results with those in a baseline study “strongly suggest a significant deterioration in general well water quality…consistent with well water interference having occurred within the Study Area since 2017, potentially due to construction and/or operation of the North Kent wind turbines.”
Comparison of the wells in the study area with results from a “reference group” outside “strongly suggests that well water within the footprint of the North Kent wind complex is of significantly lower quality”.
The Panel also could not conclude that health risks were present due to “unsafe concentrations of toxic chemicals in the water” but said several contaminants of concerns were identified, including lead, arsenic, and total coliforms.
The Panel recommended further sampling of well water to provide more data and cover a greater geographical area, and that further samples should “capture solid particles in suspension in well water.”
Reaction from residents has been to focus on the claim of low participation in the study. One property owner, who must keep water in large tanks in her garage and who has spent thousands on filtration systems due to the discoloured, gritty water from her well, posted this comment on Facebook:
Clearly more work needs to be done.
Wind Concerns Ontario was also informed by a resident that the municipality offered to supply piped water to affected residents in one area, at a cost of $46,000 per home. They rejected the offer both because it’s not affordable, and because they feel this has been done to them without proper response.
Members of the community appealed the government’s approval of the North Kent 1 wind power project on environmental grounds including the risk to the water supply. The wind power developer produced a technical report on hydrogeology without notice mid-proceedings but the chair of the Environmental Review Tribunal would not allow the appellant any time to review the report.
The appellant had no choice but to withdraw the appeal.
Environment ministry staff were aware
Staff in the Windsor area officer were aware of problems with the well water as a result of numerous complaints to the office and via the provincial Spills Action telephone line.
According to correspondence between staff, there was a memo issued in 2017 and again in 2018, titled “Well Water Impact Complain Investigation” prepared by AECOM Canada, the consultant for the developer, North Kent Wind. At that time, according to ministry correspondence dated May, 2018, “the Ministry concluded the construction of the North Kent 1 eind project was not the cause of any water supply or quality issues.”
In a letter to Environmental Officer Deb Jacobs on June 14, 2018—obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario as a Freedom of Information request—hydrogeologists with the ministry commented on water samples:
“…the water samples collected from the XXXXX well during the March 7, 2018 sampling event exceeded the ODWQSOG Aesthetic and Operational Objectives for several parameters including turbidity, pH, total dissolved solids, alkalinity hardness, sodium, colour and iron….Operational Guidelines are established for parameters that, if not controlled, may negatively affect the efficient and effective treatment, disinfection and treatment of the water… The ODWQSOG also establish standards for parameters which when present above a certain concentration, have known or suspected health effects.”
Read the full report here:
I live about 4 km as the crow flies, northeast of this “wind farm”. I can see the turbines turning their massive blades and at night my horizon is dotted with 12 flashing red lights. Knowing what harm these turbines have caused and continue to cause is disturbing and frustrating. If the proposed “Otter Creek wind farm” had not been cancelled, I would most likely have a contaminated water well myself. Government continues to get away with what they’ve done to these poor affected families. It’s a huge injustice.
The Wynne government went on after North Kent 1 to approve the Nation Rise project which is on a designated “highly vulnerable aquifer.” Citizens appealed that project too, on environmental grounds including the risk to the water supply, but were not successful.
All of Ontario’s regulations and processes related to wind turbines need to be updated and revised. Be sure to mention to election candidates when you see them!
Thanks for your comment.
Anne L. Fairfield
Finally, Finally, we have a report — and it is so disappointing! Study North Kent 1 more?! My condolences to all the families who have and are continuing to suffer the Loss of their clean water supply, AND all the dollars they have spent in trying to recover what they need every day. After 6 long years of this disaster, this Government response is pathetic, and it does not deserve re-election. The families are still left where they were in 2017! Too little too late!