Residents in downtown Wheatley allowed to return after gas leak

Investigation in Wheatley on July 19, 2021 (Photo via CK Fire Twitter)

Downtown Wheatley is starting to reopen again after a state of emergency was declared on Tuesday because of a Hydrogen Sulfide gas leak.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent said the state of emergency has been reduced down to the building at 15 Erie Street North where the toxic and flammable gas was detected on Monday morning.

People forced out of their homes and businesses in downtown Wheatley are being allowed to return after the power is restored on Thursday.

The municipality said readings in the last 24 hours have shown no gas present in the area and the emergency site and the evacuation order have been narrowed down to just 15 Erie Street North. Municipal officials noted that gas monitoring will continue over the next few days to make sure the area is stable and safe.

Acting Chief Administrative Officer Cathy Hoffman said preliminary findings show that the gas is coming from an old gas well.

“The source is a gas well but that still has to be confirmed by the province. Right now we don’t know if there’s a specific well where it’s coming from,” said Hoffman.

Senior municipal officials and Mayor Canniff will be speaking with provincial officials Thursday afternoon to update them on the situation with the intention to transfer the matter to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Hoffman said it would be up to the ministry to determine what the next steps are to deal with the gas leak if it’s confirmed it’s coming from a gas well.

Affected businesses will be allowed to open once the power is restored and the relevant health inspections are completed.

Hoffman said residents and business owners are being contacted by municipal staff on Thursday to facilitate their return.

“This will be done in an orderly fashion triaged in with both our emergency services personnel who will be on-site to assist as well as our public health inspectors who will be conducting their necessary steps before we allow people back in,” Hoffman added.

A total of 23 homes and 13 businesses in the area were evacuated on Monday affecting a total of 52 people.

Hoffman noted this state of emergency was resolved much quicker because there were protocols in place from the state of emergency last month that expedited things like testing results.

A state of emergency was also declared in downtown Wheatley in early June after a Hydrogen Sulfide gas leak was found at the Pogue Pub. That state of emergency lasted about two weeks.