Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton delivered a bottle of turbid water to Environment Minister Chris Ballard in the Ontario legislature Tuesday to emphasize the impact wind turbine construction has had on area water wells.
“I want the minister to understand why communities are so troubled by the effect of wind turbines on their water,” said McNaughton. “Wells that have produced clean, clear water for decades have begun producing dirty brown, unpotable water since construction of turbines for the North Kent I wind project began.”
The MPP noted the number of families affected by damaged wells in the former Chatham Township area has grown to 16, fuelling concerns in the Wallaceburg area where environmental approval may come soon for a similar turbine project to get underway at Otter Creek.
A major concern raised by two local citizen groups is steel piles used to anchor the industrial wind turbines being driven into Kettle Point black shale bedrock, stirring up heavy metals known to be dangerous to human health.
However, consultants and company officials for the Korean industrial giant, Samsung Renewable Energy, and its U.S. partner, Pattern Energy, developers of the North Kent Wind project, have stated at two recent public meetings the construction has had no impact on area water wells.
“The government should do the right thing and stop Otter Creek immediately and stop the North Kent project,” McNaughton said.
“I think this is just yet another example of the Liberal government showing disrespect to families in rural Ontario,” the MPP added. “If this happened in the GTA, they would shut these projects down immediately.”
Responding to direct questions by McNaughton during question period on Monday at Queen's Park, Ballard said: “Our government takes these concerns regarding groundwater quality very seriously.”
He added the renewable energy process requires proponents to undertake extensive consultation with municipalities, Indigenous communities and the public.
He noted North Kent Wind has done extensive monitoring prior to construction and the ministry is going to require the developer to continue to monitor the vibration data during the construction and operation of the wind turbines.
When asked if halting these two wind projects could trigger another $1-billion hit to taxpayers, similar to the cancellation of the natural gas projects in the GTA area, McNaughton stated: “Not at all, the savings for Otter Creek alone would amount to $570 million.”
He said there are other environmental reasons for stopping the Otter Creek project, including the fact the nearly 200-metre high towers – the highest in Canada – will be erected in a migratory bird flight path and in an area where there are 24 species-at-risk.
The MPP said there also is an economic reason for halting these projects.
“These turbines are being built to generate electricity we don’t need, and they’re only going to contribute to driving hydro prices even higher,” McNaughton said. “This is a bad decision by the Liberal government economically, environmentally, and for the health and well-being of my constituents.”
McNaughton said when the Liberal government announced it was suspending the renewable energy procurement process in September 2016, he asked why they wouldn't cancel the North Kent and Otter Creek projects.
Speaking to the economic impact, Ballard said clean air and clean energy is responsible for Ontario saving more than $4 billion in annual health and environmental costs, “because of this government's commitment to clean energy.”
He called renewable energy projects crucial to the ministry's carbon switch. "We're not going to back down,” he said.
"We have taken a very cautious, science-based approach when setting the standards for renewable energy projects in order to protect the health of the Ontario people.”
McNaughton said, “the claim that a science-based approach has been taken to analyzing the effect of wind turbine construction on well water is contradicted by the empirical evidence.
“Observation is the first rule of science,” he added. “We need to stop turbine construction until more thorough testing can be completed and measures taken to ensure our groundwater is safe.”