Community leaders from Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang First Nation met with the Minister of the Environment Chris Ballard for over an hour Wednesday to discuss a health study to examine the possible health effects of their industrial neighbours.
The minister pledged to complete the health study following a Global News investigation last month in which an alarming number of leaks and spills in Canada’s ‘Chemical Valley’ and the people who believe they are falling ill because of it.
Anne Marie Gillis, a Sarnia councillor and chair of the Lambton Community Health Study Board, has fought at all levels of government for a study to assess whether or not people are becoming ill because of the cluster of industrial plants which are only steps, in some cases, from people’s homes. She was pleased that a study is finally getting underway.
“We don’t have to go begging anymore,” Gillis said. “Minister Ballard has picked up the ball that was dropped by other government agencies.”
The Sarnia councilor noted that it would not have happened if Global News and its media partners had not brought the issue to light.
WATCH: Sarnia-Lambton MPP says health study would ‘put to rest’ concerns in Ontario’s ‘Chemical Valley’
In October, a Global News investigation, in partnership with Toronto Star as well as Ryerson and Concordia Universities, uncovered a troubling trend of leaks in spills in ‘Chemical Valley’, the industrial area which nearly surrounds the First Nation of Aamjiwnaang and borders the south end of Sarnia. Residents were concerned that no health study had ever been done, at the ‘postal code level’, to zero in on whether their proximity to industry and the high volume of emissions were causing their reported health problems.
Forty-eight hours after the documentary aired on Global News, Ballard pledged to fund a health study, unlike his predecessors who had turned it down.
It is expected the scope of the study will be complete within three to six months, with the ministry taking the lead, Gillis said. A ministry employee will be traveling to Sarnia and Aamjiwanng on Monday to start gathering information.
WATCH: Cellphone video shows extreme flaring at Imperial Oil refinery in Sarnia in Feb. 2017
Gillis underscored that everyone has a sense of urgency on the matter. “We don’t want this to get lost again.”
Requests for comment to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change were not returned by deadline.