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It took a year, but the Ontario government has kept its promise to get some answers for contaminated well owners in Chatham-Kent on the safety of their water.

It has been a long, emotional struggle for people who are hauling water in to cook and bathe with after their perfectly good wells began clogging with black sediment after the wind farm companies began construction in Dover and Chatham township.

Fear of what the black shale, which is known to contain toxic heavy metals, is doing to the long-term health of them and their children has been incredibly stressful for families. Add to that having to haul water during cold winter months because the expensive water tank you bought is frozen.

All they want is answers and they are tired of being shoved from one level of government to the other to get them.

Now that an expert panel of toxicologists has been convened, their analysis of the water and black shale particles – and its short and long-term health effects – should answer the biggest question.

While a local geologist is on the panel, there is a glaring absence of experts who have already started the process of confirming the presence of black shale, and more importantly, the amount of black shale in the water samples.

Dr. Joel Gagnon and the GLIER Institute at the University of Windsor is already working on the black shale issue, but was not included in the announcement. With his specific expertise and his graduate students looking at study grants, we hope the panel will reach out to him for the data he has already collected.

The answers people are looking for also need to address the why in addition to the what. Why did perfectly good wells get clogged with black sediment after turbine construction began and why are they still going down? Is the source water aquifer permanently damaged?

Why has the Ministry of the Environment blatantly ignored the problem?

If the damage is permanent, who is going to pay to have water lines installed so these people can begin to live normal lives again?

People in Chatham-Kent shouldn’t have to live in Third World conditions when it comes to water. All levels of government should be concerned when it comes to drinking water, and our medical officer of health shouldn’t blow off the concerns of more than 189 well owners.