Gas Leak Leaves Residents Homeless One Month Later

Courtesy of @TweetLeamington October 20, 2016.

A month after the discovery of a gas leak on Robson Rd. in Leamington, the residents of two houses still can’t return home.

Donald Giesbrecht and his wife say they have moved five times since the evacuation. Right now, they live in an apartment where the rent is paid day-to-day, but the unit isn’t fully accessible, and Giesbrecht is in a wheelchair.

The family can’t even take comfort in the company of their pet cat. The cat is being boarded at the veterinarians because the landlord doesn’t allow pets.

Fire Chief Chuck Parsons admits he has no idea when they may be able to move back home.

“They have to be sure that they cap [the well] properly and as such, it’s not controlled at this time. That’s been a big problem with it,” he says. “We don’t have a timeline on when it’s going to be capped.”

The Ministry of Natural Resources says further complicating the work is the enclosed space between the two homes. Workers have to wear safety equipment to protect themselves from the hydrogen sulphide emissions.

Parsons says the well is undocumented, so crews aren’t sure how it was drilled. It’s also over 100 years old and badly deteriorated. There are indications it had been leaking for a long time.

“We know it’s been leaking for probably 20 years,” Parsons says. “The gentleman who’s property it’s on had problems growing grass. They had some smell down there from the hydrogen sulphide — thought he might have a septic problem. That’s how he discovered the well.”

The Municipality of Leamington declared a state of emergency when the ordeal began on October 18. While that opens up services for the municipality, it doesn’t provide the evacuated residents with financial compensation. Giesbrecht says the Red Cross paid for his lodgings the first week, but he and his wife have been paying out of their pocket since.

Mayor John Paterson says if their insurance companies don’t provide financial help, it becomes a civil matter with the homeowners possibly suing each other.