“Show me the money”, “you don’t care”, “do your own research”, “health before wealth” were a few of the comments shouted out on Monday night, as a large contingent of Water Wells First supporters protested at a public meeting held by the Otter Creek Wind Farm group.
“The decision tonight to take a new direction with Water Wells First, to become more of an activist or protest wing to Water Water First,” Kevin Jakubec, the spokesperson for the group, told the Sydenham Current at the meeting.
“We still have our research that we conduct, which is funded by our community with qualified experts with all the appropriate credentials.”
Jakubec added: “What we are doing is we are raising this issue now in a new way with ‘Shame Awards’ so that the Ontario Government, Premier Wynne sees the seriousness of this issue. That all the members of the Canadian Wind Association see that North Chatham-Kent, where this is a proven sensitive aquifer, north Chatham-Kent will be the Waterloo for the Canadian Wind Energy Association.”
Jakubec said their group doesn’t want the communities water to be destroyed.
“We won’t allow its quality to be degraded and we have far, far too many families that are financially dependent on this aquifer,” he said.
“There is two issues here… an environmental issue, we simply don’t want to see an aquifer destroyed that is 12,000 years old and we certainly don’t want to see families that are forced into financial hardship because here is the truth about north Chatham-Kent, many families cannot afford a waterline. They cannot afford it over five years, over 10 years, over 20 years. It is simply a financial burden that they are not prepared for.”
Jakubec added: “It is in that, that we now go to this new protest side of our organization where we now will single out municipal officials, we will single out Provincial officials, we will single out industries, we will single out corporations whether they be wind industry, which is the immediate threat now, or another industry. We simply have to protect the water for these families.”
‘Shame Award’ handed out, questions asked
Midway through the meeting held on Monday at The Clubhouse at Baldoon, the Water Wells First group presented a “Trojan Horse” shame award to the Otter Creek Wind Farm group, which is jointly owned by Renewable Systems Canada (RES Canada) and Boralex.
The group peppered the Wind Farm representatives as well. Watch below:
— Sydenham Current (@SydenhamCurrent) 1 February 2017
— Sydenham Current (@SydenhamCurrent) 1 February 2017
A small toy horse was presented to the Otter Creek representatives, who declined to accept it.
Why Water Wells First was created
Referencing a letter written by Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton to the Minister of Energy from August of 2012, Jakubec said a resident outside of Mitchell’s Bay brought to McNaughton’s attention that his well water had been contaminated and impacted.
“That has been noted since 2012,” Jakubec said.
“How is it possible that the Municipality doesn’t know this? I mean, is the Municipality, as a Mayor and council incompetent or are they so interested in the monies they are receiving from the wind companies that they turn a blind eye to this? This is known in our area. If our MPP knows this and is able to write a letter to the Ministry of Energy, how is it possible that our council and our Mayor don’t know about this.”
Jakubec said this is why Water Wells First was created.
“To bring attention to this. It is a very very serious issue for the community. We simply cannot risk water. There is no way that we can live without water and what point do we draw the line to stop this,” he said.
“The people in Dover Township, their voices have been suppressed. They have said for years that there has been a change in the water quality. When you go out to the farms and you actually see black particulates floating in the water and you talk to those homeowners, those farmers and you say ‘was this here before? No. It showed up when the pile driving occurred’. Well okay, that is anecdotal evidence right there.”
Jakubec said Water Wells First and the community should not have to fund their own research to clarify the issue.
“The wind industry and the Municipality have taken the position of ‘where is there a peer review study on this.’ Well, that is Water Wells First. That is what we are doing. We are raising community funds to get the science, the get the peer review journal put out there. To get that research done, but we shouldn’t have to do it. That is the biggest issue that we have with the Municipality, with the Ontario Government, with the Ministry of Environment Climate Change and with the wind industry Canadian Wind Industry Association,” he said.
“How dare they make the people have to prove that their water quality have been degraded. We went through Walkerton. At what point do we learn? And here we are again, where we now having to raise the money from the public and its this that has enraged the community.”
Otter Creek looking into issue
Otter Creek Wind Farm officials told the media on Monday afternoon said they want to determine for themselves if there is a potential impact from turbines on water wells.
“It is something we are looking into on our own behalf to get a better understanding of the issue and really try and make sure that we try and understand the claims that are being made about potential impacts and make a judgement based on science, engineering data,” said Marc Weatherill, project manager for the Otter Creek Wind Farm.
“It’s important for us to make decisions based on demonstrable fact or at least well-known, if not proven theories about hydrology and how the turbines work. That’s something that we are in the process of doing. We have a third party engineering firm (GHD) that is assisting us with this and giving us their opinions on this issue.”
Adam Rosso, director of project development in Ontario for Boralex, said the company does not want to impact a water well.
“We do this because we are environmental stewards, we do this because we are a green energy company,” he said.
“If there was something where we felt we were doing wrong or that the science backed up, we’ll consider that obviously with everything we do in regards to the implementation of our programs and our projects.”
Read more from a Monday media briefing with Otter Creek here: Otter Creek Wind responds to Water Wells First claims
Here are some photos from Monday’s meeting:
– Photo credit: Aaron Hall