BREAKING: State of Emergency declared after gas leak detected in Wheatley

Emergency crews at the scene of a possible gas leak in Wheatley. (Photo courtesy of Chatham-Kent Fire and Emergency Services via Twitter)

A State of Emergency has been declared in Wheatley after a gas leak was detected on Erie Street North.

Chatham-Kent fire officials said crews from Station 20 – Wheatley and Station 19 – Tilbury were called to the scene in the area of 16 Erie St. North in the town’s downtown area at around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. A release from the municipality of Chatham-Kent said the presence of Hydrogen Sulphide has been detected, adding that emergency crews remain at the scene and members of the public are being advised to avoid the area because the gas is toxic and flammable.

Electric service has been shut off for 20 customers in the area, including 13 residential dwellings. Sixteen residents have reportedly been displaced with some of them receiving emergency shelter at local hotels while others are staying with family or friends.

The Provincial Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources have been informed and¬†Windsor Fire & Rescue Service’s Hazmat Team and Enbridge Gas crews were also called to the scene Wednesday night.

At this time, it’s not clear where the leak originated from, but municipal officials said is not related to any natural gas service provided by Enbridge.

The level of gas that has been detected in the area reportedly presents a significant safety risk, so emergency personnel have established a perimeter around the area.

It’s not clear how long the area will need to be evacuated, but Chatham-Kent Fire and Emergency Services Chief Chris Case said based on previous experience with similar incidents, the issue could take weeks or months to resolve.

Chief Case said this type of call is typically associated with an old gas well that has been capped. Case said the gas is coming from a few places. He said a restaurant owner in the area called when they saw the gas bubbling up from the drain in the basement and it’s also seeping from between the restaurant and the motel next door.

There have been no injuries or treatment required.

Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said Hydrogen Sulphide is not life-threatening unless it’s inhaled in high concentration. Dr. Colby said that’s highly unlikely because of the pungent rotten egg smell.

Chatham-Kent Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire added Hydrogen Sulphide is a naturally occurring gas that comes from deep in the earth.

(with files from Paul Pedro)