UWindsor prof hopes to bring "fresh set of eyes" to Chatham-Kent water wells issue

A University of Windsor professor is wading into a contentious issue between families in Chatham-Kent and the Ontario government — the safety of drinking water.

Families have insisted for months that pile-driving is contaminating wells they use to live and farm

Ontario's Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has concluded that while the water quality of some wells in Chatham-Kent has changed, the construction of wind turbines is not to blame. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

A University of Windsor professor is wading into a contentious issue between families in Chatham-Kent and the Ontario government — the safety of drinking water.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak brought up the issue at Queen's Park last week, and was ejected from the legislature after holding up a water sample, black with sediment, and demanding the acting minister of environment and climate change "take a drink."

The government insists the water is safe and that there is no connection between the change in residents' well water and the pile-driving construction for wind turbines. But residents in the area aren't so sure.

"Our role here is to try to do good science and to come in with a fresh set of eyes and as much objectivity as we can bring to look at these challenges," said Gagnon. 

Hear more from Joel Gagnon on CBC's Afternoon Drive:

A professor at the University of Windsor is wading into the dirty well water controversy in Chatham-Kent. We spoke to Joel Gagnon. 8:03

Previous studies of individual water wells taken on by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change showed that water was safe to drink, despite the colour. But some residents said they were not satisfied with those findings

"Obviously there's a disconnect in the positions and that provides us with an opportunity to come in and perhaps inform and find some common ground by just doing some good science and some research," said Gagnon.

Having an academic institution take a look is going to bring the truth.- Kevin Jakubec, Water Wells First

Gagnon will also be involving students in the research and using this as an opportunity to teach them about taking water samples and testing. But he said all the work will be done according to provincial protocols. 

"It's initially going to be a training exercise for students in the field and then as we build up our own datasets and see what's available from other parties we can develop a clearer picture," he said. 

Joel Gagnon is the department head of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Windsor. He'll be working with a team of students to study water wells in Chatham-Kent. (Joel Gagnon)

Kevin Jakubec, spokesperson for the Water Wells First advocacy group, said this sort of independent review is exactly what his community has been asking for. 

"I think it's really welcomed and I know that the community is really excited and really grateful that the University is going to get involved and take a look at this independently," he said. "Having an academic institution take a look is going to bring the truth."