But no mention of Industrial Wind Turbines and how these harm aquifers and wells
By Rich Davenport, published March 21, 2022
March 22, 2022 marks this year’s World Water Day, with organizers using the theme this year of Groundwater – making the invisible visible, as to raise awareness of how important groundwater is, and the water tables and aquifers that harbor this important, life-sustaining resource is to all of us.
The NYSDEC, for it’s part, announced this day of recognition and awareness through it’s Division of Water, providing sage advice to understand that groundwater makes up most of our freshwater resources, and to use our water wisely, avoid waste, and be careful what you throw away, as it could impact someone downstream.
Reality is that World Water Day is a UN event that seems to call attention to the plight of our waters due to threats from climate change, with groundwater being claimed to be the “last lifeline” for expanding populations in the face of climate change. Notice how the term global warming is being shied away from?
It is true that groundwater is the source for much of our freshwater resources, as aquifers and artesian wells are more widespread than potable surface freshwater, especially in light of mankind’s cavalier use of surface freshwater being used for industrial purposes and effluence; seems like we like open waters to be treated like toilets instead of drinking fountains, as has been well documented throughout history, especially when looking at 21% of the world’s surface freshwater resources, the Great Lakes.
But while it is good to raise awareness of groundwater and how we could be harming these essential resources with construction and drilling, clearing of forests and paving everything, reducing water-absorbing buffer zones that allow water to seep into the aquifers, naturally filtered by gravel and limestone, a big threat to our wells and water tables is found in the form of Industrial Wind Turbines. In fact, while hydrofracking seems to take the blame for very problem wells experience, the actual truth is construction of wind factories and their operational noise once completed is causing far more harm to our wells and water tables than any fracking operation has ever brought.
According to the Ontario Ground Water Association (OGWA.ca), an organization founded in 1952 as a not for profit industry group created to facilitate various sectors of the ground water industry coming together for delivery of safe, clean water supplies throughout the province. This group has begun the unenviable task of sounding the alarm bells concerning damage being done by industrial wind factories in Ontario, Canada, which means damage is being done to groundwater resources across the world where Industrial wind factories are being built.
According to the OGWA’s magazine, The Source, July 2019 edition, Dr. Joel Gagnon, a professor at the School of Environment/ Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, penned the article “To A Mouse… Chatham-Kent Water Wells and Wind Turbines (with apologies to Robert Burns)”, which chronicles and identifies the incredible damage wind turbine installation and operation had on several communities in the former Dover Township vicinity, after several wind factories were built and commissioned for operation, starting in 2007.
Dr. Gagnon writes “…groundwater quality was good and yields adequate to supply family farms, including livestock operations, with many wells being constructed without need for screens or filter packs. Some area residents characterize the water as having a ‘sweet’ taste, and widespread groundwater quality and persistent well maintenance issues were previously unknown in the area. The situation changed in the former Dover Township in 2007, when Marsh Line Wind constructed five industrial wind turbines around the community of Dover Centre. Impacts to groundwater quality, in the form of dramatically increased turbidity, were reported by local residents, however, the linkage with wind turbine installation and operation was not established at that time. The situation in Dover Centre was repeated in 2012, when installation of wind turbines was recognized as the cause of increased turbidity in groundwater wells in the vicinity of the East St. Clair Wind turbines.”
Wind developers, as is true to their nature, denied any possibility that their construction and operation could ever possibly cause such problems, employing their usual and predictable “shame game” of accusations of those opposed to their schemes being science deniers and in the pocket of “big oil”. Yet, very little work was actually done to understand what potential environmental consequences could befall the aquifers if construction were permitted – the projects are simply green lighted as environmentally friendly based on the claims that without wind factories, we cannot “save the planet”.
Low frequency noise vibrations are responsible for this dramatic and quality of life altering change to the residents’ water quality – and this is something that is irreparable. The article goes on to describe the confirmation process, “Recognizing that impacts to groundwater quality in the vicinity of the Marsh Line Wind and East St. Clair Wind developments likely resulted from wind turbine construction and operation, some residents in the vicinity of the proposed North Kent Wind development in the former Chatham Township undertook a baseline water quality study prior to commencement of wind turbine construction in 2017 – something that had not been done before the Marsh Line Wind and East St. Clair Wind developments.
For over 100 years, rural residents of C-K have relied on groundwater extracted from a contact aquifer that occurs at the interface between the glacial overburden (predominantly clay till) and Kettle Point (KP) shale bedrock that underlie the region. Area water well contractors know that locating significant groundwater yields can be problematic, often requiring multiple attempts to construct a viable well. Once located, however, groundwater quality was good and yields adequate to supply family farms, including livestock operations, with many wells being constructed without need for screens or filter packs. So when things changed short after wind factory construction, it made no sense to residents that the damage caused was not directly from wind factory construction and operation.
According to Gagnon, “At the time of the preconstruction testing, evidence of water quality impacts, including excessive turbidity, was not observed (Clarke, 2018). Upon commencement of construction of the North Kent Wind turbines, however, increased turbidity was observed, which was reported in several well interference complaints to the then Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). The data and analysis presented by Clarke (2018) confirmed that water quality had been impacted and that well interference was caused by North Kent Wind turbine installation and operation.”
Much uncertainty has now replaced 100 years of high quality water coming from this important aquifer. Issues measured by the damaging wind factories include 1) excessive turbidity and sediment production, which leads to rapid plugging and fouling of filters and damage to equipment (e.g., water softeners, washing machines, pressure tanks), 2) increased gas production, which is likely dominated by methane but also likely contains radon (Ford et al., 2015), and 3) biomass/film formation, which leads to fouling of water systems and undesirable odor, taste and appearance. In some cases, the affected families have lived on these properties for five generations and report that these impacts were not observed in the area until wind turbine installation and operation commenced. The infrasound, which can be measured as seismic activity as far away as 10km, or 6.2 miles, from operational industrial wind factories, loosens sediment and can collapse shale rock, rendering a once stable and reliable aquifer into a problematic and degraded water source, oftentimes becoming toxic to people with increase biologics detected, as well as presence of dangerous gases, such as Radon, which is found in shale deposits and causes cancer.
An investigation by Clarke (2018) confirmed that particles contained in the groundwater comprise KP shale. Studies by Armstrong (1986) and Reichenbach (1993) show that KP shale: 1) contains anomalously high concentrations (some in excess of 1500 parts per million) of several potentially hazardous metals (e.g., As, Cd, Co, Cr, Mo, Pb, Se, Th, U, V, Zn), 2) exbibits the highest concentrations of many of these metals in the uppermost few meters of the shale, which corresponds with the interval immediately underlying the contact aquifer, and 3) has the highest concentrations of many of these metals (e.g., As, Mo, Pb, U, V) in association with the highest total organic carbon (TOC) contents (up to 15% TOC). It is worth noting that most well water testing kits do not test for the presence of these toxic metals and other substances. Most tests focus on bacteria counts and high levels of turbidity, and then mitigations reflective of correcting the problems.
Residents of C-K that use groundwater that has interacted with KP shale have the potential to be exposed to a combination of hazardous substances (dissolved metals, metals containing particulates, and radon) in multiple media (water and air) via multiple exposure routes (inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact). The uniqueness and complexity of this exposure scenario necessitates that structured study be done to quantify the associated health risks. Thus far, such studies have not been undertaken. In fact, when brought up, wind developers and some politicians push back with the claims that this would be impossible for wind factories to do this damage, and the predictable insults and name calling shortly follows in an effort to silence those ringing the alarm bells, as their money resonates more than the truth to the politicians who are supposed to serve the people that elected them.
Meanwhile, in NY, the ever-expanding wind factory construction across rural stretches of NY’s southern tier has also brought problems to groundwater and residents with wells providing their water needs. Starting in May 2021, when a frack out occurred while horizontal directional drilling was being done to create transmission line pathways under a federally protected wetland resulting in bentonite clay contamination of that wetland, prompting cleanup and containment efforts which stretched on for weeks. But residents have also reported cloudy, turbid water has replaced their once clean, sweet water supplies, with an odor that indicates something is very wrong with the well. No word as of yet from the Public Service Commission, or the NYSDEC, but the wind developers at Cassadaga Wind sure are in full denial of any problems created by this facility.
Seems like we don’t know much about these facilities after all, and the empty claims of “saving the planet” being worth the risks just fall flat, with denial and greed fueling the ignoring of very real problems inflicted on host communities.
Yes, March 22, 2022 is World Water Day, and the theme is all about groundwater this year. I trust we will do more to raise awareness to what industrial wind turbines are doing to our aquifers and water tables, as their infrasound is causing issues not only to the living creatures around and under these monstrosities, but damaging the water so many depend upon as well. I hope the DEC will demand these studies be conducted, but something tells me that Jekyl and Hyde Commissioner Seggos has no interest in protecting the environment and natural resources, despite his job to do just that.