Solution for gas leak in Wheatley in holding pattern

Provincial Hazmat Team at gas leak in Wheatley. Photo via CKFES. June 4, 2021.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent says there is currently no toxic gas lingering in downtown Wheatley following a leak last week, but the area is still not safe for the return of the evacuees.

Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said efforts continue to find the location of the Hydrogen Sulphide leak discovered June 2, why the leak stopped, and whether it will come back. A State of Emergency was declared the following day because Hydrogen Sulphide is toxic and flammable. Shropshire said readings taken last Friday showed minimal gas levels in the area but they have now dissipated.

A total of 27 people were removed from their homes and businesses and put up in hotels by the municipality. But Shropshire said only four remain out of their homes and are still being temporarily supported by the municipality. All others have found alternate living arrangements with either family or friends or through their home insurance.

“Extended emergency shelter is normally only provided to those on social assistance. If people have home insurance and access to other resources they are responsible for finding their own accommodation,” said Shropshire.

Shropshire also noted that the municipality has contracted a private company with expertise on abandoned gas wells and gas leaks to advise them on how to proceed on this issue because he said the municipality is not responsible for this leak. He said the responsibility lies with the province.

Shropshire said planning is underway to get the situation resolved as soon as possible and get the displaced people back to their homes and businesses.

“We know the community is very anxious to get back to some sense of normalcy but we’re going to do that in a very measured and deliberate way and try to identify the source and find if there’s any remediation required before people can go back to their homes and their businesses,” said the CAO. “We’re pushing pretty hard to get other folks to the table.”

Shropshire added the municipality has a role to play in this but others, such as business owners, private property owners, and the province need to come to the table to find a solution and worry about who is going to pay for it later. He said the province has provided guidelines to handle the situation but has not yet agreed to come to the table to talk.