Third abandoned well discovered in Wheatley evacuation zone

Wheatley gas well January 2022. (Photo via Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Another abandoned well has been found in downtown Wheatley.

Chatham-Kent Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said a third well was discovered on Tuesday and experts are now trying to determine what type of well it is, gas or water.

The contractors discovered a brick well structure with a small wooden casing extending from the bottom approximately 12 feet below surface, according to the municipality.

Wheatley gas well January 2022. (Photo via Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Shropshire said provincial records identified the potential for three wells at the site near 15 Erie Street North a while ago and now it’s been confirmed.

“The records that they had when the wells were dug in the late 1800s indicated that the locations were only good within 200 yards. So, actually, physically finding the wells where they were expected to be was helpful,” said Shropshire.

He said there’s been gas monitoring on-site to determine if there’s any further risk involved with the new well, adding there has been no additional risk and the evacuation zone will not need to be expanded. However, the municipality later said small amounts of methane have been detected emitting from the well structure.

Chatham-Kent Fire Chief Chris Case said firefighters are still at the scene 24 hours a day to protect the area and keep it safe.

General Manager of Infrastructure and Engineering Services Thomas Kelly told councillors at Monday night’s meeting that another abandoned well under the municipal parking lot has been confirmed as a gas well and it’s about 1,000 feet deep.

He also said the other nearby well at 15 Erie Street North is about 100 feet deep but it’s not known if it’s gas or water and a camera will be installed to determine that.

Shropshire said a plan has been submitted by the firm engaged by the province to lead the project and the municipality is reviewing it. He said once that’s done a virtual public meeting will take place. The last public meeting was on November 3, 2021.

The last gas leak was November 21, 2021 after several other hydrogen sulfide gas leaks since June 2, 2021 and an explosion that injured 20 and destroyed several buildings on August 26, 2021.

The municipality has also been waiting for another gas leak for weeks because of the historical cycle of previous leaks, but said it hasn’t happened yet because topographical changes and cold weather may be having an effect on the site.

Officials also reported that minor delays are expected this weekend for owners wanting to visit their properties because some members of the on-site team were placed under COVID-19 protocol this week.