The Ontario government is launching a health hazard investigation on roughly 200 privately-owned water wells across Chatham-Kent.
"This is an independent expert panel that's assembled that's going to operate outside of government," said Monte McNaughton, the Ontario Minister of Labour. "These are five scientists who have the background to [conduct the investigation]."
The issue of water quality across the region dates back to around 2016 when residents started noticing a foul-smelling black liquid coming out of their wells. It was around this time the North Kent Wind Turbine Project was in its first stages. At the time, officials with the project announced there were "no grounds to believe that vibrations caused by the construction and operation of the wind turbines in the project will influence groundwater.”
In 2017, the results of the laboratory test were submitted to the ministry by Water Wells First after revealing a 14,000 times increase in black shale particles in at least one local water well since construction started on the wind farm north of Chatham.
Three years later and the PC government has decided to address the issue.
"We've heard of concerns raised by families for years," said McNaughton, during a news conference at Country View Golf Course on Friday. "The former government completely ignored this situation."
Despite who is in political office, North Kent residents Jim and Angela Leveille said during the years of water-quality uncertainty they have restored to filling a tank with water from the water tower to sustain themselves. Since the wind turbines began spinning five-years ago their well has been plugged.
The two bought a stainless steel well to replace their old one, but as the turbines keep turning, their water keeps plugging, said Jim.
Both Jim and Angela believe the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has not done its due diligence to address their complaints, and complaints of others in Chatham-Kent.
"I want accountability, I want an admission... I don't want anyone else to go through this," said Angela. "I want people to believe what we are saying."
Angela said around May 2018 the environment ministry never did check the water quality in the couple's well. Instead, she claims the wind company contracted out the work to an independent third party. A month later the report was completed, she said.
Not until around May 2019 was the well-owner allowed to see the results, after filing an ATIPP request with the government.
"Why do we have an environment ministry if they don't do anything when the environment gets wrecked," said Jim. "I'm paying their wages aren't I, to protect my environment? It doesn't look like they are working."
Despite their recent hardships, Jim said he hopes McNaughton's announcement provides some answers for the people who share in his struggle.
"If anything good comes from it I would love it," said Jim. "Of course I don't have any faith in anybody... it's been going on for years."