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13th May 2016
EDITORS NOTE: This is why we all have to monitor, monitor and monitor again, what is happening around us!

Mississippi Mills residents want water answers from Health Canada

Health concerns raised after firefighting foam chemical found in well water

By Julie Ireton, CBC News Posted: Apr 04, 2016 6:00 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 04, 2016 7:09 AM ET

Residents living near a National Research Council facility who found out their well water is contaminated with toxic chemicals say a recent technical briefing with NRC officials has left more questions than answers — and they'd like the answers to come from Health Canada.

Homeowners neighbouring the fire safety testing facility in Mississippi Mills, Ont., found out in December their water had been contaminated with chemicals often found in firefighting foams.

L​ast week, NRC and Stantec Consulting officials gave a slide presentation to some residents living in the contaminated area, to explain the history, testing and remediation that has taken place in and around the property.

Right now, the NRC is delivering bottled water to some homes and is paying for charcoal water filtration systems in others.

J.D. Heffern, who lives near the NRC facility with his wife and three daughters, said he and others are concerned about their children and any potential long-term effects from drinking and using the water.

Heffern said that, unfortunately, Health Canada was not at the meeting to answer their important questions.

"They're the ones we haven't talked to, to understand what is a short-term exposure and what is a long-term exposure?" said Heffern. "Is this a problem for people who have swimming pools? Or when you have a shower?"

He said the residents have called for another townhall-type meeting with more federal and provincial officials who are prepared to answer questions.

"We have way more questions now than we had before," Heffern said. "If anything, it confirmed our sort of visceral gut feeling that this is something of significance."

Broader testing requested

The chemicals found around the facility are perfluoroalkylated substances, or PFAS. A Health Canada brief only offers details on studies involving PFAS and animals, noting that "high levels of PFAS have been linked with negative health effects ... including liver damage and impacts on neurological development."

At the meeting, Heffern and other residents asked the NRC to broaden its testing to nearby areas that could also be contaminated. The agency said it will move ahead with those tests.

We know these contaminants have migrated off the NRC property and that we have a wetland very close by. We know that it's in the ground water."

The residents aren't the only ones asking questions. Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston MP Scott Reid recently submitted a question to Parliament, seeking a detailed history about ground water testing at the NRC facility.

"What we're looking for is exactly some of the information that local residents are looking for," said Reid.

"The real difference here is we get to ask an expansive set of questions as a member of Parliament. You get essentially preferential access."

Reid said once the answers are released to his office, the information will be made public.

Province asked to step in

In the meantime, residents near the NRC facility are also seeking legal advice.

They also hope Ontario's Ministry of Environment and Climate Change will step in.

The provincial ministry told CBC News it is "aware and supportive" of the federal government's investigation. The ministry said it only became aware of the issue in October 2015 "when the NRC informed the ministry of findings of elevated levels of the contaminants of concern at the property boundary."

The NRC did not respond to CBC requests for interviews.