Province bans pile driving for new wind turbine project in Chatham-Kent, says NDP

NDP claims a turbine project approved for the Chatham-Kent area has been told by the province not to use a pile driving technique that some residents say ruined their water wells when other projects came to the area. Province has since shot down that claim saying the company never planned on using the technique anyway.

The Ministry has since clarified saying it's not a ban and that company never intended to pile drive

Essex NDP MPP Taras Natyshak said the ban is a big win for the people of Chatham-Kent who have complained about contaminated water wells. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

A turbine project approved for western Chatham-Kent has been told by the province, according to the NDP, not to use a pile driving technique that some residents say ruined their water wells when other projects came to the area. 

Romney Energy Centre GP Inc. applied to build 18 turbines on a private piece of land near Wheatley, with the remaining infrastructure in Lakeshore.

The project, named the Romney Wind Energy Centre, has been approved by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, along with a series of conditions.

One states the company will not be able to use the pile driving technique to install the turbines.

"This is a victory for the little guys," said the Essex NDP MPP Taras Natyshak, who said this ban on pile driving shows that ministry staff agree that "pile driving construction puts the groundwater at risk."

Sediment in the water

Residents who have complained of finding black sediment in their well water have blamed the construction of wind turbines for disrupting bedrock and pushing it into their water. 

The provincial government told these people they don't know why their water quality changed - but it wasn't from the construction of wind turbines. 1:23

 "The folks that have been affected in Chatham-Kent by the industrial wind turbines and specifically the pile driving have been sounding this alarm for quite some time," said Natyshak.

"But it won't do anything to repair those folks that are affected."

Natyshak said the pressure from residents have 'bared a little bit of fruit' and wants to know what reparations will come for people impacted by pile-driving. 

'No health hazard'

The provincial government has submitted reports to families that complained about their drinking water in Chatham-Kent in light of turbine construction. 

One of those reports stated that there was "a change in raw water quality" but that pile driving was not the cause. The report also added that the water was safe to drink.

That's why we put strict requirements and process in place for projects like this.- Jeff Leal, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs 

"Turbid water is certainly unappealing, but according to the Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health, in the absence of bacterial contamination there is no health hazard from undissolved particles in the water," the report added.

Residents who live in Chatham-Kent have been fighting to get the provincial government to acknowledge the impact these turbines have had on their local water wells at their homes and farms. 

'Strict requirements'

Pile driving for this specific project was brought up in Queen's Park today when Natyshak questioned the government about why the practise was banned. 

"Our government takes concerns regarding ground water quality serious," replied Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal. 

"That's why we put strict requirements and process in place for projects like this. It's our government that's created these requirements with strict measures of oversight in order to provide the highest level of protection for our environment."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of the story stated the province had banned pile driving for this project. In fact, the company proposed construction of the project without the use of pile driving. The company still cannot pile drive unless it gains additional approval from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
    May 01, 2018 8:17 PM ET