New information doesn’t rule out abandoned Wheatley gas wells as source of leaks

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

Chatham-Kent’s general manager of infrastructure and engineering services is reporting that abandoned gas wells in downtown Wheatley are still in play as a source of multiple gas leaks and have not been ruled out.

Thomas Kelly said new analysis from gas samples taken from an area near the former Pogue Pub and the hotel next to it and the abandoned Tait Well nearby indicates the gas source closely matches gas from “a producing natural gas well” in the region.

The municipality said the next phase of the investigation is to confirm if there’s a lateral pathway between the pub area and the abandoned well to confirm if there are any other sources of gas.

The municipality also said the hydrogen sulphide gas is coming from somewhere underground, adding it’s possible that the gas is “biogenic in nature” and is generated from stagnant water close to the surface that is mixing with gas migrating along a path beneath the surface.

Hydrogen sulphide gas has been detected near the pub at 15 Erie Street North during gas leaks since June and it was accompanied by flowing water, according to the municipality. It was also detected in extremely low concentrations near the abandoned well immediately following the latest gas leak on November 21, 2021, read a news release issued by the municipality late on Friday afternoon.

The removal of hydro lines and poles is taking place on Monday to allow investigators to continue their work. Municipal officials also said building excavation will follow at 15 and 19 Erie Street North and 9 Talbot Trail West to try and find out where the gas is coming from.

“The technical consultants are currently actively working with sub-contractors, the municipality and the province to develop detailed work plans and health and safety plans to ensure these activities are undertaken safely,” said municipal officials.​

A third area of potential environmental concern previously identified is a vent on the north-west corner of the municipal parking lot near Elm Street.

The area of 15 Erie Street North in Wheatley has experienced five hydrogen sulphide gas leaks since June 2, 2021 and an explosion on August 26, 2021 that injured 20 people, forced dozens from their homes and businesses, and damaged several buildings.