Hydrogen sulfide no longer being detected in Wheatley as residents remain in limbo

A toxic, flammable gas that prompted a state of emergency in Wheatley on June 3 hasn't been detected in the area in about 10 days, according to a municipal councillor.

Source of gas leak remains unknown and state of emergency is still in effect

Emergency responders first received a report of a gas leak in Wheatley on June 2, and a state of emergency was put into effect the following day. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

A toxic, flammable gas that sparked a state of emergency in Wheatley on June 3 hasn't been detected in the area in about 10 days, according to a municipal councillor.

"In some ways this is good news, in that there's no immediate threat to the community, but in other ways it's really challenging, particularly for those who are responsible for finding the source of the gas leak," Chatham-Kent Coun. Melissa Harrigan told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning on Wednesday.

It also means that people who live and work in the area where the hydrogen sulfide gas leak was found remain in limbo as the situation enters the two-week mark.

According to the municipality, 27 people and and unspecified number of businesses were ordered to leave the downtown area. Many of the residents have found their own accommodation, though a handful are receiving support from the municipality, Harrigan said.

"It really does put members in the community in a bit of a state of pause, not really knowing what next looks like and what the plan is for remediation or to move forward," said Harrigan, the councillor for Ward 1, which includes Wheatley.

Some buildings, including homes and businesses, were evacuated in Wheatley earlier this month due to a gas leak. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

The food bank in Wheatley had to be relocated as well, and the situation has also put a strain on businesses. Without having a sense of how long the situation will last, businesses are saying it's difficult for them to make plans for the future, Harrigan said.

The gas leak was detected after a restaurant owner on Erie Street North called authorities after noticing a rotten-egg-like smell in the basement of his establishment and something bubbling up from a drain.

The odour was later determined to be hydrogen sulfide, a highly toxic, flammable gas that occurs naturally. Officials have speculated the gas may have originated from an abandoned well but crews have not yet been able to locate the source.

Amid those efforts to find the source of the leak, emergency crews have been on the scene around the clock to support public safety.

Harrigan said she's heard from community members who are frustrated with the flow of information regarding the leak, since the updates from the municipality have become less frequent as the situation has worn on without change.

Firefighters have been on the scene in Wheatley for two weeks. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

She raised the issue at a council meeting on Monday and a municipal official provided a status report at that meeting.

"There was a commitment to give further information on a more regular basis, which I think is very important," she said.

A spokesperson for the municipality said Tuesday that there was no new information to report but that they anticipate there will be developments in the coming days.

With files from Windsor Morning


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