Neighbours, activist worry about water

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York1 Environmental Waste Solution's map of the company's proposed expansion.

Water Wells First founder questions York1’s non-porous clay findings

Heather Wright/The Independent

A man who has been on the forefront of the fight for clean water wells is worried about York1 Environmental Waste Solution’s plan for an old dump in Dresden.

Kevin Jakubec – who founded Water Wells First concerned the wind industry would cause harm to local water wells – now says the Irish School Road land could allow leachate from the proposed Dresden landfill to flow to Molly’s Creek.

When York1 first announced it wanted to revive the old dump creating a construction and soil waste recycling and transfer station and building a new cell for a landfill at the site, neighbours voiced concern about the plan.

Dave Willson and Sherri Northcott, who live right across the road from the dump, were the first to raise the issue. He said, at the time, there had already been water well problems.

Before York1 purchased the land from Mark Smith who operated Waste Wood Disposal at the site, there was a well that had not been properly sealed. It was leaking into the aquifer. Willson and his neighbours had to stop using their wells for a time, while the Ministry of the Environment tested the water, he said. Those test showed everything was fine.

Then in 2022, York1 started sinking test wells on the property. That’s when methane appeared in Willson’s water well.

York1 brought in a methane detector for the couple to use and Willson says “the machine lit up like a slot machine in Vegas” The company removed the detector, telling Willson to open windows to clear out the methane. Later, the couple had to have repairs done to methane-proof the well.

Willson says the records from the first incident did not show methane present in the well. Seven months later, there was.

Willson presented the original report to York1’s lead on the expansion, George Kirchmair, recently. “Things are happening now.”

Willson says the company is vowing to fix the well or “worst case scenario is I was told they’d have to run municipal water down here for me,” says Willson.

But Jakubec worries there could be more problems on the horizon if York1’s proposal ever is approved. He says the company’s documents filed to the Ministry of the Environment for changes to the Environmental Compliance Approval certificate said there was grey clay in the area. The ministry looks for grey clay when dealing with landfills because it is not porous.

But Jakubec, who has been studying water wells in the region for years, was suspicious. Other wells in the region often showed yellow and blue clay. “Yellow and blue is exposed to oxygen. That means there has been some water movement through it,” he tells The Independent.

So Jakubec started pouring over water well maps in the area. He found the wells around the landfill all have yellow and blue clay. “But when you look (at the wells) in their site, it’s just right. That’s a red flag,” he says. And he says it could cause problems down the road.

“If you had a leachate leak through the geomembrane (of the proposed new landfill) that goes way down, then it can move,” says Jakubec.

That’s a concern for not only the ground water, but local streams and drainage ditches. “If you look at Molly Creek being so close there, Molly Creek is wooded on both sides of the creek. Tree roots go down and tree roots are known to increase hydraulic conductivity,” he added saying the water would then have a clear path to head to the creek and eventually to the environmentally sensitive Sydenham River.

Jakubec is raising his water concerns by writing an extensive report filed to the Environmental Registry of Ontario. That’s where York1’s original plans were announced for the public to comment.
Ministry of the Environment officials working with York1 have also voiced concerns about water at the site. Officials have said there should be more frequent testing of private wells in the area.

A Dec. 18, 2023 letter from the ministry says “A number of items are still outstanding including but not limited to a survey of the residential wells in the vicinity of the site. Additional hydrogeological work is required, however that additional work will be completed on an ongoing basis.”

Jakubec isn’t convinced the ministry, which did not link water well troubles in Dover and Dresden to wind turbine construction, will hold York1 to account.

“They have a horrible track record of allowing water security to be put at risk around Dresden and Dover… we have a horrible track record with the Ministry of Environment protecting the water security board absolutely horrible.”

Jakubec’s concerns were among those registered on York1’s Environmental Compliance Approval proposal. There is likely to be a more through examination of water issues if a full Environmental Assessment – the highest standard of environmental scrutiny given to projects – is approved.

The province has filed a request to force York’s plan to undergo a full Environmental Assessment on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. Residents and governments have until May 10 to express an opinion on the issue. They also have until April 11 to comment on York1’s landfill plan at the Environmental Registry.

Officials from York1 have yet to speak to the media since the Minister of the Environment announced its plans to start the process to upgrade to an Environmental Assessment.
They have said a new landfill would meet current day requirements and would be far better than what is there now.