Editorial: Problem-solvers in Chatham-Kent, Ont.

Citizens need answers – and low-cost solutions – to water-well problems in southwestern Ontario
Colleen Cross
June 11, 2019
By
Treat the disease, not the symptoms. That’s what medical experts always tell us.

And that’s what well owners in Chatham-Kent, Ont., tried to do.

They observed widespread symptoms in their water wells. They saw brown and black sediment cloud their water and clog their home filtration systems. They saw and smelled slimy biofilm in their water. They worried (and still do) about the possible negative health effects of drinking and bathing in it.

They formed an activist group called Water Wells First. They did what any good doctor or scientist would do: They gathered evidence of the problem. They looked for patterns. They did research. They consulted experts.

And they did what any good patient would do: they proactively asked for answers. From their local council, from the wind turbine developers and the Ministry of the Environment. Unable to get satisfactory answers, they sought and received help from their provincial ground water association, from hydrogeologists, from geologists and from the media.

The group’s co-founder, Kevin Jakubec, has done a mountain of research on the Kettle Point black shale underlying the contact aquifer, on the behaviour of particles of difference sizes and on the phenomenon of seismic coupling. Jakubec surrounded himself with experts and shared that knowledge with all who would listen.

Unfortunately, the message of Water Wells First has fallen on deaf ears all too often.

Despite strong evidence of well interference by industrial wind turbines, the provincial government and the wind industry have not acknowledged a link between the turbines and the well problems.

So these folks did what any independent-minded person with their back against a wall would do: they went about solving the problems themselves.

That’s not to say they gave up trying to hold industry and government responsible. Far from it – as this issue went to press, Water Wells First, the Ontario Ground Water Association and University of Windsor scientist Joel Gagnon joined neighbouring Essex County’s MPP at a press conference at the Ontario legislature to ask the premier to keep his promise to help.

They’ve spoken out before, but were inspired to speak out this time by ongoing ground water concerns and the prospect of another wind project planned in Finch township near Ottawa, where fragile geological conditions exist.

The OGWA said at the press conference: “Our association is not against development, but
. . .  seriously committed to the protection of ground water in Ontario. Our aquifers need to be protected from any form of contamination. Not only from wind turbine vibrations, such as in Chatham-Kent, but also from the improper storage of radioactive waste, the disposal of garbage in old quarries and gravel pits, industrial chemicals, PFSAs from fire fighting, and low dose pharmaceuticals and micro-plastics.”

They continue to voice their concerns, but the focus has shifted to finding solutions. They face “the practical challenge of using the water and the costs residents have incurred,” as Gagnon puts it in our feature story.

Chatham-Kent’s well problems are far from solved, and Finch township’s may be just beginning. But feisty Water Wells First and its supporters have advanced knowledge of well issues by working as a team to try to solve them. Their drive to spread the word about this threat to ground water proves there is strength in numbers. Let’s help them find low-cost solutions while the fight continues to nail down and get public acknowledgment of what’s causing them.

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