Wheatley bracing for another gas leak

Wheatley excavation December 23, 2021. (Photo via Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Work has been stopped in downtown Wheatley as another gas leak is expected next week.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent said a second well has been discovered during excavation work near the site of an August 26, 2021 explosion in Wheatley.

Officials said provincial inspectors were on site earlier this week to collect information to understand more about this well. The municipality says the next steps for the investigation team are to examine the information gathered this week and to learn more about this new well, including controlling any gas flow.

Experts are also anticipating another gas event just before the year comes to an end. Chatham-Kent General Manager of Infrastructure and Engineering Services Thomas Kelly said the past pattern of gas to build up and release has taken place between 38 and 47 days.

“We anticipate the next release could be within a few days of December 31,” he said. “We are venting and monitoring the gas to reduce any chance of further issues.”

Air monitoring will continue while officials examine the new information gathered this week. Acting Chief Administrative Officer April Rietdyk said fire and emergency services and security personnel will continue to be present at the site using a controlled monitoring approach that will allow officials to gather more information if the expected gas release takes place.

“We learn more each time a [gas] release takes place,” Kelly said.

Officials also announced that a venting system had been installed to safely vent gas in anticipation of another release.

“The test separator will divert any water from the well to a holding tank for safe disposal and send any gasses to a temporary venting stack with the capability to flare,” the municipality said in a media release. “The test separator will also allow for sampling and data recording during a gas release which will provide valuable data to the team.”

Resident visits and building winterization have also stopped and will resume when it is safe to do so.

Officials are hopeful that the discovery of this well will help to develop options to close this chapter.