Tribunal Hears About Well Water Concerns

Water Wells First Rep Kevin Jakubec holds up turbid water following a preliminary Environmental Review Tribunal hearing in Chatham, August 23, 2016 (Photo by Jake Kislinsky)

The table has been set for an Environmental Review Tribunal hearing between North Kent 1 Wind and local group Water Wells First.

Most preliminary hearing details were ironed out Tuesday at the John D. Bradley Centre in Chatham. Tribunal Associate Chair Jerry DeMarco presided over discussions between Water Wells representative Kevin Jakubec, the Ministry of Energy and North Kent 1.

Jakubec has appealed the wind company’s Renewable Energy Approval (REA) over fears construction of wind turbines around Chatham could have an adverse effect on local well water. Well Waters First claims vibrations from past turbine construction and installation have deposited sediment into drinking water in the Dover area.

During the hearing, slated to start on October 5, Jakubec and his legal counsel will introduce nine witnesses, including five deemed as experts. They include Dr. Mark-Paul Buckingham of Scotland, a specialist in vibration reduction.

“It’s certainly known ground vibrations can cause damage, and it’s recognized vibrations are a form of environmental pollution,” says Jakubec. “Dr. Buckingham is one of the world’s top experts in this field.”

The tribunal approved Buckingham’s questioning would take place via video conference, along with Toxicologist Dr. William Sawyer. The hearing could last from October 5 all the way through to October 27.

The opposing parties argued some witness statements need to include more detail, with the Tribunal’s DeMarco explaining the statements need to stand alone in the event one of the witnesses wasn’t able to speak on the issues.

In addition to Jakubec, eight other participants have been approved to play a role in the hearing, with varying degrees of involvement. Most are concerned residents who have been associated with the Water Wells First initiative in the past.

The tribunal also got confirmation from Jakubec, the ministry and North Kent 1 that all three parties would be willing to participate in tribunal-assisted mediation. Jakubec says this is an important step in ultimately amending the REA to create more contingencies in the event any turbines contaminate local wells.

“In the last five years the cost to remediate and fix vibration impacts from wind farms has dropped significantly,” says Jakubec. “It should not come to a question of cost trumping the environment, particularly in the green energy sector. That’s unheard of.”

It’s still unclear what role the Municipality of Chatham-Kent will play in the hearing. On Monday Chatham-Kent Council voted to send its legal team to the preliminary hearing, and get involved with the proceedings. But, because of the short notice, municipal lawyers are still verifying if they’ll call witnesses, answer questions, etc.

Their level of involvement will be confirmed during a teleconference on Monday August 29.

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