Lambton-Kent Middlesex NDP candidate Vanessa Benoit examines black shale particles held by Water Wells First member Kevin Jakubec (right). The black shale was provided by Dave Lusk (centre) after taking it from the contaminated well on his farm in Dover Township. (Photo by Kirk Dickinson/CKXS News)

A local citizen group is slamming the provincial government for failing to address the concerns of residents who have been forced to live with contaminated well water.

With the provincial election just over two weeks away, the group Water Wells First organized a meeting with local candidates in the Lambton-Kent Middlesex riding on Tuesday, to express frustration over a lack of action on the water wells issue, which has plagued parts of rural Chatham-Kent for more than four years.

Only NDP candidate Vanessa Benoit and None of the Above Direct Democracy Party candidate Dean Eve were in attendance at the Lusk farm in Dover Township. Incumbent MPP for the riding, Monte McNaughton, was notably absent.

Eve said the government needs to be held accountable for the ongoing issues faced by water well owners.

“This is a complete ball drop,” he said.

Benoit added that current and past governments have allowed water well owners in Chatham-Kent to fall through the cracks.

“This is completely unacceptable that this has gone on for so long,” she said. “It’s really important for us to have renewable sources of energy but not at the expense of water, air or anything else. We have to find a way going forward to make this work.”

Benoit said if she is elected, she intends to advocate for those who have been forced to live with contaminated well water. She also committed to launching a Health Hazards investigation to determine the health risks associated with consuming well water.

Water Wells First member Kevin Jakubec said the Ford Conservatives also committed to conducting a Health Hazards investigation during the last provincial election in 2018. However, he said the provincial government reneged on their promise by conducting an “All-Hazards Investigation” which provided no definitive answers on possible health risks associated with the contaminated well water.

The Ministry of Health launched the All-Hazards Investigation of Well Water in Chatham-Kent in 2019, which tested 61 wells in the area near the North Kent 1 wind farm.

A summary of the study was presented to residents last month, which said nearby wind turbines potentially caused “significant deterioration” in general well water quality, but no widespread health risks were identified.

Jakubec said the report failed to provide residents with answers and it instead cites the need for further assessment and investigation. He also expressed frustration that certain areas of the municipality were excluded from the investigation, such as Dover Township.

Jakubec said he has reached out to MPP McNaughton in an effort to organize a town hall meeting.

“I wrote to Mr. McNaughton yesterday, offering to work with him to set that up so that he can directly communicate with the people here, especially the people in Dover Township… They need to know why they were excluded,” said Jakubec. “We need public consultation.

“The Ford government failed us when they did not have public consultation.”

Since the North Kent 1 wind complex began construction of wind turbines in 2017, residents have complained of an impact on the quality of their well water, citing increased turbidity, discoloration, and the presence of sediment such as black shale.

“There’s a lot of issues here that the Ford government has simply not addressed,” said Jakubec.