Local residents will soon learn if the air we breathe is impacting our health.
On Wednesday, the results of the long-awaited Sarnia Area Environmental Health Project (SAEHP) will be revealed at 7 p.m. at the Best Western Guildwood Inn on Venetian Boulevard in Point Edward.
It’s been 16 years since Sarnians became deeply concerned about national headlines that painted their city as a gritty industrial town and raised concerns about local health impacts, says City Coun. Anne Marie Gillis.
She was on the original grassroots committee that called for a Lambton Community Health Study in 2007 and says the study and its results are a long time coming.
“In 2007, local people wanted to know if those national articles were a true reflection of our town,” she said. “If so, we need to do something about it.”
About 10 years after the original committee formed, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) took over the process and hired a number of consultants to gather monitored and modelled data for relevant chemicals. In total, about 50 chemicals were identified for assessment including fine particulate matter, benzene, benzopyrene, 1,3-butadiene and sulphur dioxide.
The ministry website for the study (https://www.cleanairsarniaandarea.com/sarnia-area-environmental-health-project.aspx ) indicates it was completed with input from the Aamjiwnaang and Walpole Island First Nations, Lambton Public Health, Public Health Ontario and Health Canada.
However, Gillis said she is concerned not enough public input was sought from local residents.
About 17 meetings related to the study were held since 2017 but many were online because of the pandemic.
Last spring, partial results were released based on noise, vibration and light stressors. Gillis said she felt the results were incomplete.
“We’ll see Wednesday night what is said at the final meeting but I was not pleased with what we saw in the spring,” she said. “It was just results of what they found and no recommendations about what to do about it.
“If all is well, great. If all is not well, it needs to be fixed and we need to know what will be done about it because they are the ministry responsible,” Gillis said.
A ministry spokesperson was unavailable for comment. However a press release says that two hours, from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m., have been scheduled by the MECP to release the results. The event will feature presentations and discussion of the project, including findings from a health risk assessment on air pollutants.