UPDATE: Hydrogen sulphide gas returns to Wheatley

Wheatley gas explosion. (Photo courtesy of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Hydrogen sulphide gas has again been detected in downtown Wheatley.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent said monitoring equipment at 15 Erie Street North detected the gas early Friday morning at the scene of the August 26 explosion. The blast damaged several buildings in the downtown area.

Municipal officials said Chatham-Kent Fire Services, the provincial hazmat team, and the consultant investigating the previous gas leaks and the explosion were at the scene and sent samples of the gas to the University of Windsor for testing.

The municipality noted that gas is still being detected at the site and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office, the consultant, the Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks, and Chatham-Kent technical staff are also on scene.

“Officials with gas detection equipment are continuing to monitor the perimeter of the evacuation zone,” said Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire.

Fire Chief Chris Case said there are no plans to widen the evacuation zone at the moment but ongoing monitoring is taking place. Case said the public will be notified if the situation changes. He said the gas was released under high pressure for about seven hours between 4 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

General Manager of Infrastructure and Engineering Services Thomas Kelly said it’s believed the gas is building up in a cave underground and releasing and he noted there’s a pattern.

“One of the possible theories is that gas pressure is building up underground to a level where it finds a path to release into the atmosphere. Once the gas releases, it begins to build up pressure over time and releases again,” he said. “We have had incidents 47, 38 and 43 days apart.”

It’s the fourth gas leak in downtown Wheatley since June 2, 2021. The investigative work to find the source continues. Shropshire noted there are two abandoned gas wells near the site.

Kelly noted the recent gas leak should help officials find the source of the gas leak. Municipal officials said there has been no gas detected around the perimeter.

Shropshire said the investigative work underway to find the source is in no way responsible for Friday’s gas leak.

“The work that has been done has been non-invasive, the ground-penetrating radar and the electromagnetic analysis. It’s not like there’s been excavating or anything like that,” said Shropshire.

Anyone who smells gas should call 9-1-1.