Water well woes after test drilling on nearby dormant landfill ‘naturally occurring’; ministry

Recent news of a proposal to expand operations at a Dresden-area waste disposal site has upset many residents, but Dave Willson has had a concern with the property for nearly two years.

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Willson lives directly across the road to the entrance of the dormant landfill with his wife Sherri Northcott, just north of Dresden. He said they began experiencing problems with their water well after test wells were drilled on the property at 29381 Irish School Road, owned by York1 Environmental Solutions Ltd.

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“Shortly after that is when we started getting methane gas in our well,” Willson said.

Noting his in-laws built the home 53 years ago, he said there has never been a problem with the water well prior to the test drilling taking place around the spring of 2022.

York1 has applied to Ontario’s Environment Ministry to restart and expand operations at a waste disposal site at 29831 Irish School Rd., north of Dresden, to operate a regenerative recycling facility to divert construction waste from landfills.

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The application proposes increasing the site’s waste disposal site from eight hectares (about 20 acres) to 25 hectares (about 62 acres) to accept up to 6,000 tonnes a day of non-hazardous solid waste, including construction and demolition waste and excess soil, for beneficial reuse. It also would accept an average of 1,000 tonnes a day of residual waste for final disposal. York1 also wants the site to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Willson said he called the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) and an engineer was sent to their property.

He said it was confirmed methane was in his well, but the ministry said it was “coincidental” and there was no way the drilling on the landfill property could have done anything.

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“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Willson said.

He shared correspondence received from the MECP last July which stated, in part, the methane present in the water supply system is interpreted to be “naturally occurring” within the local supply aquifer.

The ministry noted the occurrence of methane is consistent with observations made at monitoring wells installed in September 2022 and June 2023 at 29831 Irish School Rd and is also consistent with information provided in regional hydrogeologic studies.

The ministry stated it reviewed past and recent activities at the site “to assess if there is a possible mechanism or process which could have resulted in increased methane levels in the domestic water well at your home.

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“Historic(al) landfilled waste at the site is not deemed a potential source of methane gas given the inert nature of the materials reportedly landfilled,” which was predominantly incinerator ash, the ministry said.

The ministry also requested and reviewed information from the landowner, York1, about well-related activities in recent months.

“After reviewing this information, the ministry is of the opinion that none of the activities undertaken at that site could have caused an increased occurrence of methane gas coming from the domestic water well at your property,” the letter said.

The ministry also suggested the gas may have been due to low water levels at the time.

Willson said they have “spent thousands of dollars to correct this, but it isn’t right yet.”

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He said a gas scrubber has been put on his well and the well is now double-vented, which has helped.

“We still have methane though, so every couple of weeks we have to bleed it off.”

While the water from the well is drinkable, Willson said, “It’s got a different taste to it.”

Postmedia has not received a response from York1, as of publication time.

John Lamers, who owns a home on Irish School Road near the landfill in which his son lives, said he hasn’t had the property’s well tested recently.

But he added, “My concern is they are going to be disturbing the ground when they get in there.”

Noting York1 plans to dig out the old landfill and relocate it, Lamers said, “They’re going to be in there with big bulldozers and big excavators digging deep into the ground to get that stuff out of there.

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“I’m worried they’re going to disturb our water table,” he said.

North Kent Coun. Rhonda Jubenville, has expressed concerns about the potential of nearby water wells being impacted by the project.

Having worked with other residents in her ward that have experienced water well problems since industrial wind turbines were installed in past years, Jubenville said, “I encourage everyone in that area to get baseline tests done” for their water well.

“I know it’s a small expense, but it may be worth its weight in gold in the end,” she said.

Willson said he has even left messages with the Doug Ford Progressive Conservative government, because the riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex has been without an MPP since former Labor Minister Monte McNaughton resigned in September 2023.

He spoke about this issue with a York1 official briefly at meeting with residents Feb. 10 regarding plans for the site, adding the company official said he would get in contact with him.

“He hasn’t reached out to me, yet,” Willson said. “I imagine I will be reaching out to him.”

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