Windsor

Wheatley gas leak evacuation order to be lifted for most of the community

Most of the residents and businesses who were told to leave downtown Wheatley over a hydrogen sulphide gas leak will be able to return starting Thursday, the municipality of Chatham-Kent has announced.

Gas leak coming from a well, preliminary testing shows

Crews at the scene of a gas leak in Wheatley in southwestern Ontario in June. On Monday, it was determine there was another leak. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Most of the residents and businesses who were told to leave downtown Wheatley over a hydrogen sulphide gas leak will be able to return starting Thursday, the municipality of Chatham-Kent has announced.

Acting chief administrative officer Cathy Hoffman said the emergency declaration and evacuation order will be narrowed to include just 15 Erie St. N., the building where the toxic, flammable gas was found on Monday morning.

Testing shows the gas is only being detected at that location, she said.

"Over the next 24 hours we'll continue gas monitoring at 15 Erie Street North just to ensure an ongoing pattern of stability and we'll be reassessing every 24 hours after that," she said.

Hoffman, who gave the update on a conference call with reporters on Thursday, said the municipality intends to reach out to those living and working in the affected area this afternoon.

Fifty-two people — at 23 homes and 13 businesses — were told they had to leave after a gas detector activated at the Erie Street address, which houses a restaurant.

Buildings to be inspected

Chris Case, chief of Chatham-Kent Fire and Emergency Services, said firefighters will inspect each building before residents can return. 

With new gas detection equipment in place, he said, firefighters aren't required to remain in the area, and they will  clear the scene after assisting residents and business owners.

Last month, a gas leak at the same building sparked an evacuation that lasted more than two weeks.

The gas was only detected during the first few days of the incident, however, and the source was never identified. Officials speculated the gas, which occurs naturally, could be coming from an abandoned well.

This time around, Hoffman said, the municipality was able to quickly get samples collected for analysis.

She said that preliminary, third-party testing has determined the gas is of a thermogenic nature, meaning is it coming from a well, but the location of the leak is still unknown.

She stressed these results need to be confirmed by the Ontario government. 

The municipality wants to transfer oversight of the situation to the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, and is holding a meeting Thursday afternoon with officials.

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