Charges have been laid in relation to a number of industrial wind projects in the Chatham-Kent area.

On July 12, the Ontario Court of Justice in Chatham-Kent determined there were "reasonable and probable grounds" to believe environmental offences had been committed under the Environmental Protection Act by the environment minister, ministry staff and three industrial wind companies.

Residents in Chatham-Kent have claimed for years the turbines have contaminated well water with black shale in the areas surrounding the projects.

Toronto-area lawyer Eric Gillespie, who represents Chatham-Kent resident Christine Burke, says the charges stem from a court review of his client’s private action in which she alleges work on the nearby wind projects have contaminated well water and made it unsafe for drinking or bathing.

Burke alleges the minister, government officials, and the companies violated the law by failing to take “reasonable care” to prevent the contamination as several wind farms were installed.

Gillespie tells CTV News the charges show the seriousness of the allegations.

“I do think it indicates this is a very serious situation. It also indicates the courts are taking it seriously because charges like this cannot be laid independently, it has to be done through the court process, and that's what's happened here,” said Gillespie. “So, we do think this is a very significant development.”

According to court documents, the charges are for ongoing actions since 2017 under the Environmental Protection Act.

The projects are named are the North Kent 1 Wind Farm operated by Pattern Energy Group and Samsung Renewable Energy, and the East Lake St. Clair Wind Farm, run by Engie Canada.

A spokesperson with Pattern Energy told CTV news they weren't aware of the legal action and had no further comment.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Jeff Yurek says it would be inappropriate to comment because the case is before the courts. The Municipality of Chatham-Kent has also declined to comment.

The case is due back in court in Blenheim on August 14.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The news comes one week after the provincial government announced an independent panel of experts to investigate the well water in Chatham-Kent.

The five-member panel is to determine if the water from private wells in Chatham-Kent is safe for consumption.

— with files from The Canadian Press