Demolition and other work about to start in downtown Wheatley

An explosion in downtown Wheatley on August 26, 2021 brings a building down to rubble (Screengrab via Chatham-Kent Fire Twitter)

Heavy duty work is about to get underway in the evacuation zone in Wheatley as the investigation to find the source of multiple gas leaks and the cause of an explosion continue.

Incoming Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Kelly said Entegrus will be inside the evacuation zone where the gas was detected removing powerlines on Monday and the demolition work will follow mid-week next week. Kelly said the work will last approximately two weeks, if the weather cooperates and if there are no surprises encountered that can set progress back.

The gas leak last week delayed re-entry appointments for residents to gather their belongings and check their properties, but the process is set to continue on Wednesday, according to the Municipality of Chatham-Kent. However, Kelly said any work performed in the evacuation zone from December 6 until Christmas will delay temporary access for homeowners. He also said all contracted work must be performed sequentially, meaning only one contractor can be on-site at a time.

The municipality is reporting that as of Wednesday, approximately twenty-five percent of the properties have been accessed by their owners.

Municipal officials said residents will see heavy equipment beginning to move into the area later this week or early next week as the companies retained to do the work prepare for the next steps in the investigation.

The area of 15 Erie Street North in Wheatley has experienced six hydrogen sulphide gas leaks since June 2, 2021 and an explosion on August 6, 2021 that injured 20 people, forced dozens from their homes and businesses, and damaged several buildings.