Ontario conducting health hazard investigation into Chatham-Kent wells

Ground Water Canada
July 22, 2019
By Ground Water Canada
Joel Gagnon, Dave Lusk and Kevin Jakubec stand near the wellhead on Lusk's farm in the Chatham-Kent area of southwestern Ontario. Lusk is among area residents unable to drink or use their well water due to a variety of issues.
Joel Gagnon, Dave Lusk and Kevin Jakubec stand near the wellhead on Lusk's farm in the Chatham-Kent area of southwestern Ontario. Lusk is among area residents unable to drink or use their well water due to a variety of issues.
Chatham-Kent, Ont. – The Ontario government has formed an expert independent panel to investigate well water in Chatham Kent, MPP Monte McNaughton announced on Friday.

The five-member independent panel will determine if the water from private wells in Chatham-Kent is safe for consumption.

“Our government made a promise to strike this panel,” said McNaughton, MPP for nearby Lambton-Kent-Middlesex. “Today we are fulfilling that promise.”

The panel will consist of four toxicologists and one local geologist. All members are independent from government and are experienced toxicology professionals who have served on advisory committees, McNaughton said.

They are:
  • Dr. Keith Benn, PhD – A local geologist and past professor of geology at University of Ottawa.
  • Dr. Glenn Ferguson, PhD, QPRA – An environmental health scientist with 25 years' experience in toxicology, epidemiology, and human health risk assessment.
  • Dr. Shelley A. Harris, PhD – An epidemiologist and associate professor at University of Toronto who specializes in exposure measurement.
  • Dr. Ron Brecher, PhD – A specialist in toxicology, risk assessment and risk communication.
  • Mark Chappel, MSc, DABT – A toxicologist with significant experience in supervising and managing comprehensive toxicity studies.
The panel is empowered to take a fresh look at new samples collected from certain water wells in Chatham-Kent where residents have raised questions about water quality. Samples from up to 189 private wells will be taken by a third-party business and tested by a commercial laboratory.

"People can trust the results this independent panel delivers," McNaughton said.

On June 5, NDP MPP for Essex Taras Natyshack held a news conference at Queen’s Park with representatives of families that struggle to use contaminated water wells. Also speaking at the news conference were Matt Wilson, president of the Ontario Ground Water Association; Kevin Jakubec, co-founder of citizen activist group Water Wells First; and Joel Gagnon, head of the heavy metals lab at the Great Lakes Institute of Environmental Research, who after carrying out a preliminary investigation proposed multiple studies of the region’s geology in relation to wind turbine development patterns.

For more information about the well-water issues in Chatham-Kent, read the Summer edition of Ground Water Canada.

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