To demonstrate why they are renewing calls for a proper health hazard investigation into the sediment contaminating area water wells, Water Wells First asked a certified chef to demonstrate what happens when turbid well water is used to cook food.
WWF asked Toronto Red Seal certified chef Warren Simmons to the home of Dave Lusk last week to prepare food with well water direct from the tap, to show that foods washed and cooked with sediment-laden well water are not only unsafe to eat but also contravene the Federal Canadian Food and Drug Act. Food adulteration is a punishable offence under the Act.
An egg poached in the well water by Simmons was covered in the shale, and chicken stock made with the water had visible black sediment in it, something the chef said he would never serve to his customers and would never expect any person to consume.
Spokesperson Kevin Jacubec said the group has consulted with a toxicologist, Dr. William Sawyer, and a medical geologist, Heather Gingerich, regarding the safety of drinking, eating or bathing with the well water, which they said is potentially dangerous due to the heavy metals adhered to the black shale particles in the water.
Jakubec said ingesting the particles of shale, which then go into stomach acid can release some of the heavy metals adhered to the shale. Acidic foods like vinegar, he added, can further break down any sediment on foods such as lettuce washed with the water.
An added problem is people with a higher acid level in their stomachs, like those who suffer from acid reflux.
“Different food items have by their nature nooks and crannies that can lodge and trap the sediments during the preparation process for the dish, and water is used in a multitude of ways including in the washing and preparation of food dishes,” Jakubec noted. “Delivery of the sediments to the human body during the food washing and preparation process can become an exposure route for the sediments containing Black Shale particles to gain access to the acidic environment of the stomach.”
The concern of the people with highly elevated levels of sediment, including the Brooks family whose water well testing by the Ministry of the Environment showed a jump of 70 times the turbidity in the water from baseline testing, is how much of the shale is safe to ingest. Filters can only remove larger particles, leaving thousands of particles in one milligram of water to be ingested.
“Heavy metal ions adhered to the surface of the Black Shale particles can be released from the Black Shale particle surface in acidic environments. The human stomach has an acidic pH range of 1.0 to 3.0 pH. Certain foods such as meats can trigger an acidifying effect of the stomach to break down proteins, further increasing the stomach’s acidity,” Jakubec said research has shown. “Other foods by their own nature are acidic themselves, such as lime juice.”
Jakubec said consider as an example preparing a salad. Washing the lettuce in well water containing the sediments would contaminate the lettuce with the sediments. Adding an acidic vinaigrette to the lettuce would begin the release of the heavy metal ions before consuming the salad into the stomach were further acidic exposure would continue to release the heavy metals.
He contends the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit and the Ministry of Health have not fully investigated the health or legal ramifications of food prepared and adulterated with these sediments.
Dr. Joel Gagnon, a professor at the University of Windsor, is currently conducting a study to determine how much heavy metal is in the black shale in the contaminated wells and what long-term effect that may have on human health.