“This is a disgrace. We’re not a test tube.”

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

The frustration and anxiety levels continue to mount for those evacuated from their homes in downtown Wheatley as they wait for another gas leak.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is anticipating another gas leak any day based on the pattern of the last six months. Friday marks day 47 since the last gas leak. The five previous releases dating back to June 2 of last year all took place between 38 and 47 days of each other.

Steve Ingram has been out of his home for 4.5 months and calls the way the municipality has handled the gas leaks and the August 26, 2021 explosion a disgrace. Ingram said the evacuees continue to live in the dark, claiming detailed communication from the municipality has been scarce.

“This is a disgrace, it really is. I mean if this was in Toronto it would have been fixed in six days, not six months. We are being forgotten and it’s not being handled properly. When you talk to Chatham-Kent they say we’re still learning. Well, you know what, we’re not a test tube. So, get professionals in and get the job done,” said Ingram. “We need decisions. Either pay everybody the market price, take over the town and rip it down and do what you have to do as long as you need it and let us move on with our lives or at least give us alternatives. Say what the plan is.”

Ingram said many lives have been turned upside down and residents need some certainty.

“It’s a terrible feeling, it’s gut-wrenching. We’re on our third Air BnB and we have the place until the end of March and after that try to rent or live somewhere locally. It’s brutal just trying to find somewhere to live. So, we have to wonder where we go from there,” Ingram said.

Ingram said his insurance company has stood by him and will until the end of February when provincial money will kick in, but added that may not be the case for everyone because many insurers he said have a caveat that evacuees will only be covered for 30 days.

He said about half of the evacuees have been allowed to visit their properties so far.

Buildings have been demolished near the 15 Erie Street North site of the August explosion, excavation work has taken place, and th presence of two wells has been confirmed. Officials said the changing landscape in the area may affect the typical time cycle of the gas release.

The municipality said preparations have been made to safely vent and capture a sample of gas for further analysis. The next step to resolve the problem will be to bring one well to the surface, drill it and conduct tests with pressurized water to determine if an underground connection exists between the two wells.