Colby reiterates water is safe to drink

Jim Leveille, a homeowner on Caledonia Line, and Water Wells First spokesperson Kevin Jakubec examine the clogged filter on Leveille’s well pump.

Calls by area MPPs and the members of Water Wells First (WWF) for a health hazard investigation into the effects of drinking water with black shale in it seems to be falling on deaf ears.

WWF spokesperson Kevin Jakubec, however, said now that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has acknowledged their testing results that show the sediment is full of black shale, known to contain heavy metals, they are hopeful they are one step closer to a health hazard investigation.

“Last week, our scientific experts for WWF met with the Ministry of the Environment and presented our findings of black shale in the contaminated wells and the ministry accepted those findings and that is a major step forward in having a health hazard investigation started immediately,” Jakubec said. “Premier Wynne told the public two weeks ago at a public meeting in Windsor on the record that the water is safe. But yet now the government has firmly in its hands evidence that black shale is in the water and because black shale is an environmental hazard, the premier cannot say that the water is safe.”

Jakubec also said with the premier saying the water is safe, any commercial food preparation using well water with black shale in it is acceptable. However, any food products made with the contaminated water would be in violation of the Federal Food and Drug Act as an adulterated substance.

“The premier has to be held accountable for her statements and the only way to do that is to call a health hazard investigation,” he added. “We’ve asked the premier to shut down North Kent Wind 1 project until a health hazard investigation can be completed, to continue to provide water to affected families and newly affected families, to direct the Minister of Health to begin a health hazard investigation.”

At Queen’s Park, when asked by Essex MPP Taras Natyshak about the black shale contamination and a health hazard investigation in February during Question Period, Environment Minister Chris Ballard said that testing was done and, “The Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health confirmed the water particulates do not pose a health risk to residents.”

Jakubec and members of WWF, however, said the MOECC refused to collect and test the sediment in the water when well complaints were made last fall, so how can they say the water is safe to drink? WWF initiated and paid for the testing at an accredited lab that confirmed the sediment contained black shale particles in large quantities, that are too small to be caught by filters.

Dr. David Colby, the chief medical officer of health for the municipality, when asked on what evidence he based his opinion that the water is safe to drink, gave a detailed response.

“The Health Unit only tests for bacteriologic contamination. Black shale is a kind of naturally occurring rock. Rock can contain metals and other potentially toxic substances in its inorganic matrix. The toxicity is determined not by what the shale contains (as Water Wells First contends) but rather by how much of the toxic substances are absorbed by the body,” Colby said in his statement. “Inorganic materials like rock particles, sand and dirt are not significantly digested, and if ingested, pass through the digestive tract without releasing much, if any, of their toxic content.

“Particulates can be kept out of drinking water in the first place by well screens and filtering/settling systems. On the other hand, if the toxic substances dissolve in the water, they are more easily absorbed through the digestive tract. That is why it is recommended to test the water for dissolved toxins, not to test sediments. Extensive water testing has taken place.

“These are established principles of toxicology. There are no scientifically conducted studies specifically on the ingestion of black shale and I do not expect any to be undertaken, but the groundwater in the area has always been exposed to black shale and we are aware of no health problems attributable to it.”

WWF, in getting information from their toxicology expert, said the test for toxic material in particulates is called the acid digestion test, which, Jakubec said, is exactly what happens in our stomachs and releases any heavy metals or toxins in the particulate.

He added in the sample of the Brooks family well water at their home on Brook Line in North Kent, the black shale particulates went from 47 counts/ml before pile driving to 681,939 counts/ml, most of which were unfilterable because they were under four microns in size. The sheer amount of black shale particulate, he said, means the Brooks would be drinking and digesting billions of particles each day with toxins in them, and until testing is done on how that much black shale can affect the health of residents, it can’t be declared safe.

Colby, however, said that he is aware the WWF experts met with the MOECC and the information doesn’t change anything.

“On Feb. 22, 2018, MOECC hydrogeologists met with the hydrogeologist and geologist associated with Water Wells First. I was not there, but ministry staff have reported to me that the Water Wells First technical representatives did not present any new information at that meeting. The laboratory testing completed by both MOECC and North Kent Wind’s technical experts is comprehensive and has allowed for a science-based evaluation of water quality in the project area. The health hazard investigation has been done and reported. The presence of black shale particles is not unexpected and is consistent with the pre-existing water quality and geology of the area,” Colby stated.

Colby also said people need to be aware of the small number of wells out of over 500 active wells in the wind farm area whose owners filed complaints, and reiterated that increased sediment can be attributed to poor well equipment quality and maintenance.

He added that unless proven otherwise, the testing done shows the well water is not hazardous to health.

“There are the Ontario Drinking Water Objectives, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published primary (regarding potentially hazardous contaminants) and secondary (regarding contaminants without health effects) Drinking Water Standards which are consistent with what I have said. It is the responsibility of those making claims of extraordinary health hazards to provide the proof for those claims, particularly if there is little scientific plausibility,” Colby said.


  1. No, the Dr would not drink that water Elizabeth. First of all, I am sure someone has asked the Dr. Colby, Mayor Hope and Council members to drink the water from their wells. But NO ONE is willing to drink!!!
    That tells you everything you need to know as citizens of Chatham Kent when the top brass will not drink water BUT they expect the citizens with damaged wells to drink the contaminated water. Next election get the Mayor out of office and the Councillors who voted on the 15% partnership in the Samsung Pattern wind project and get a new Medical Officer. Dr Colby does testing when water in his area of living is contaminated especially in Rondeau area where he has his cottage. Water is a necessity of life. Mayor Hope, Councillors(the ones who voted for partnership) and Dr Colby, please go to these families who’s wells are effective and stay over night and drink the water that you expect them to drink and live with. I am sure they would welcome you, and you will not drink water, BUT maybe would finally get your act together and help our citizens in Dover and North Kent.


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