Ontario has called an independent panel of experts to investigate the health hazards of private water wells in Chatham-Kent prompted by local concerns about sediment in drinking water.
The investigation will be conducted by five independent experts – four toxicologists and one geologist – who will collect and test samples from 189 private wells in Chatham-Kent and other parts of rural Southwestern Ontario where these issues have been raised by the public, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton announced Friday.
“This will be an in-depth … investigation that will lead to real results that people can trust,” McNaughton said.
The concerns started around three years ago when local residents reported sediment blocking the flow of water in their wells during the construction and operation of nearby wind energy projects, such as North Kent Wind.
McNaughton said dozens of people still aren’t drinking from their wells while some families refuse to bathe their children in their well water.
“We’ve heard of concerns raised by families for years and years,” said McNaughton.
McNaughton said the previous Liberal government had ignored the claims. Under the former Liberal government, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change supported the North Kent Wind investigation that found the wind farm had nothing to do with the sediment in the drinking water. North Kent Wind’s investigation found vibrations at the water wells from the wind turbines’ pile driving and operation was at least five times smaller than vibrations created by the water wells’ own pumps.
McNaughton said there’s currently no timeline for the investigation or its eventual findings. He said the provincial government wants to get the study right while providing residents with answers as soon as possible.
“It think it’s important that this operates outside of government,” said McNaughton, who was joined by Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey and Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls for the announcement at the County View Golf Course.
The investigation is the current government’s response to local calls for an inquiry into the private wells being contaminated by black shale sediment, a concern shared by local activists in June 2016. Members of a grassroots lobby group, Water Wells First, began publicly raising concerns then about the potential impacts of pile driving to anchor the towering industrial wind turbines into the Kettle Point black shale at the base of the aquifer in the area.
In May 2018, Doug Ford promised a health hazard investigation into the water quality during the provincial election campaign. A group of Chatham-Kent citizens travelled to Queens Park in early June 2019 to again push for the study.
Jim and Angela Leveille, North Kent residents, have been using a tank they fill up at the water tower for their home supply since the water from their brand-new well started coming out black. Five days after the nearby wind turbine started operating, Jim Leveille said his well was plugged.
Jim Leveille said his property’s value has plummeted in the interim while his costs have skyrocketed from buying the necessary equipment and gas to obtain clean water.
“It’s a fight,” he said. “Why do we have a Ministry of the Environment if they don’t do anything when the environment gets wrecked.”
Angela Leveille wants accountability and recognition for their plight.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through this,” she said.
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