Wheatley evacuation zone to be reduced even further

Wheatley gas explosion. (Photo courtesy of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

As work at the site of an explosion in Wheatley continues, officials are giving the go-ahead to reduce the evacuation zone even further.

The additional reduction of the zone was announced Saturday during a virtual town hall meeting.

Former CAO Don Shropshire said ongoing gas monitoring within the zone has shown no significant emissions while crews continue to work on the old Tait well behind the former Pogue building.

“Although there had been some minor emissions, there’s no significant emissions that would cause a reason for concern,” said Shropshire. “We have confidence that the evacuation zone can be limited, with an end result that there are going to be far fewer people that going to be impacted by the extension of work beyond May.”

The original zone was first reduced in early April after officials determined evacuation was not necessary outside of a distance of 50 metres from any gas emission point.

Shropshire said the Tait well has now been capped, but there is still more work to be done on the other two wells. He said the remaining work is expected to take another eight weeks.

Director of Public Works Ryan Brown said Erie Street North, where the hydrogen sulphide was first detected, is still within the evacuation zone and will remain closed to the public.

“Over the next few weeks, as all the pieces come together and the zone can be reduced, Talbot Trail Road west and east will be open to through traffic and Erie Street South will also be open,” said Brown.

Case managers will be working with home and property owners in the new evacuation zone to work through reconnecting utilities and services.

Financial assistance from the province for accommodations will continue to be available for impacted residents until they are able to occupy their homes once again.