A Wallaceburg citizen group wants water well problems associated with a nearby wind farm to be resolved before a wind project is approved for their area slated to have turbines taller than the Great Pyramid in Giza.
Earl Towell, a member of the newly-formed Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns (WAWC), said watching what has happened with 14 water wells that have clogged with sediments in the North Kent Wind project area, “it feels like slow-moving freight train bearing down on you.”
His wife, WAWC spokesperson Violet Towell, said the group has recently sent two letters to Chris Ballard, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, demanding the situation be resolved in the North Kent Wind project area before the Otter Creek project is allowed to be built.
She said they are concerned about being on the “precipice” of the same water well problems being seen near the North Kent Wind project.
The citizen group, Water Wells First, points to the Kettle Point black shale bedrock, and the impact of vibrations caused by driving piles into it to erect turbines for the North Kent Wind project, as being the source of the sediments that have clogged water wells. The group also cites concerns that heavy metals, known to be harmful to human health, are found in this type of shale.
“We know that we share the same geology with them and all of those things are very much a concern to us,” Violet Towell said.
Earl Towell noted, “not only is it the sediments in the water, but the potential for heavy metals within that sediments is obviously a concern.
“We do know that there a heavy metals in Kettle Point shale and what part of those metals are coming into drinking glasses, we don't know yet,” he added.
Violet Towell said the group doesn't put much stock into a consultant's model for the Otter Creek project that indicates a similar situation isn't possible for this project.
“One of our advisors is a geoscientist,” she said. “He says when you have facts and experience that contradict the predictions in your model, it's likely the model is wrong, not the facts.”
An e-mail response from the MOECC states the ministry takes all concerns about wind turbines and wind farms very seriously, which is why the Renewal Energy Approval process ensures the environment and human health are protected and that developers conduct extensive municipal, Indigenous and public consultation;
The MOECC added the ministry is currently undertaking a technical review of the REA application for Otter Creek, which will include reviewing and considering all comments made about the company's REA when it was posted to the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry earlier this year.
Earl Towell said another major concern is the unknown noise impact from the size of the Enercon E-141 model wind turbines planned, which are 30 per cent higher than other turbines erected across Chatham-Kent.
“These things are monsters, 650 feet high, they're huge,” he said, adding a worry is how much noise they will create.
According to a project description report for Otter Creek, dated May 2017, the hub height of the 12 turbines planned for the project will be 129 metres – 423 feet – and the blade length will add another 66.7 metres in height – nearly 219 feet – from the top of the hub.
The Great Pyramid in Giza was originally 480.6 feet high, but has been reduced to 455 feet due to erosion.
He noted information from the developer was supposed to be provided on how much noise will be generated and they didn't have that data, so they sent in a “best guess.
“Once they're in, they're in, so people will have to live with the noise,” he added.
“To ensure the safety of neighbouring properties, all Class 3, 4 and 5 wind energy facilities, such as the Otter Creek Wind Farm, must be located a minimum setback distance from neighbouring property boundaries,” the MOECC stated. “Until the REA application process is complete it would be premature to discuss the specifics of the project.”
The ministry also noted: “We took a cautious approach in establishing clear setbacks for renewable energy projects that are protective of human health and the environment. We reviewed leading scientific studies from around the world to ensure that provincial rules are protective and appropriate for the needs of Ontario’s communities.”
Violet Towell said they have not been able to find any information about turbines of this size being part of any operating wind farm, only as prototypes.
“The Otter Creek Wind Farm project will need to meet our requirements for minimum setbacks, noise guidelines and appropriate construction and operational health and safety protocols, as well as a complaint resolution process,” the ministry said.