Two months after explosion, assistance continues for Wheatley residents

Crews work to remove debris from the site of an explosion in Wheatley on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. (Photo by Millar Hill)

With cold weather right around the corner, the Municipality of Chatham-Kent is continuing to assist displaced Wheatley residents.

On August 26, an explosion rocked the community’s downtown core. Since then, several people in the evacuation zone have been unable to return to their homes.

In an update on Wednesday, General Manager of Community Human Services April Rietdyk said case members are working to help individuals get access to winter coats and cold-weather clothing.

“Residents in the evacuated area don’t have access to their personal property and with cold weather approaching the need for season-appropriate clothing is growing more urgent,” she said.

According to Rietdyk, housing services are still being provided to a number of families and individuals.

“There may be residents who had temporary accommodations when the evacuation took place but whose circumstances have changed,” Rietdyk said. “We want residents to know we’re still here to help.”

Multiple services to assist residents are now coordinated out of the Village Resource Centre in Wheatley, located on Talbot Road East. Services include the Wheatley Area Food Bank, Employment and Social Services case management services, the Wheatley Branch of the Chatham-Kent Public Library, and access to provincial government representatives.

According to Chatham-Kent CAO Don Shropshire, the centre is the result of a partnership between the municipality and  Wheatley Recovery Group, a local group made of Wheatley residents including the Business Improvement Association.

“We have committed to providing assistance to the community and having the Wheatley Recovery Group involved means we can directly address issues from a local perspective and provide the assistance people need most,” he said. “We’re grateful for the partnership.”

The centre can be reached by phone at 226-484-1004 or by email at info@villageresourcecentre.ca

The municipality is also urging all residents who believe they have insurance-related issues to contact their insurer as soon as possible.

The explosion happened near where a hydrogen sulphide leak was first discovered back in early June and again in July on 15 Erie Street North. Gas was detected at the site once again on October 8.

Chatham-Kent General Managerof Infrastructure and Engineering Services Thomas Kelly said work is continuing to find the exact source of the gas.

Testing of the gas following the October 8 detection confirmed that it’s a naturally occurring gas typically found in the area that originates 300 metres or deeper below the earth’s surface.

According to Kelly, six 10-feet holes have been cored in the area of the explosion. Gas testing and monitoring is in process and the information will be used to determine the next steps.