Windsor

Some Wheatley businesses and residents to return to properties as evacuation zone near explosion site reduced

The municipality of Chatham-Kent says some residents and businesses will be able to return to their properties this week, as officials have moved to reduce the size of the evacuation zone around the site of a major explosion that occurred last summer.

Municipality says it will begin moving fencing that outlines the evacuation zone on Wednesday

A fence has separated owners from their houses and businesses since the explosion happened last summer. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The municipality of Chatham-Kent says some residents and businesses in Wheatley can return to their properties this week, as officials have moved to reduce the size of the evacuation zone around the site of a major explosion that occurred last summer.

"Work on the site where a gas explosion occurred back in August 2021 has reached a stage where the evacuation zone is now able to be reduced," a weekend press release from the municipality read.

Chatham-Kent and Ontario's Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry officials gave an in-depth update Saturday in a Facebook live on the municipality's social media page. 

Nearly 100 households and dozens of businesses were displaced after an explosion rocked the small town's centre on August 26, 2021. Crews have been investigating the source of the blast ever since.

"All residents and businesses that will have access to their properties outside the evacuation zone should reach out to their insurance companies and discuss next steps," the municipality said in a press release Saturday. 

Steve Ingram said that concerns over safety will always be there, but he's feeling more comfortable now, as professionals have been dealing with nearby gas wells. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Steve Ingram was one of the homeowners who got the good news over the weekend, but it came with mixed feelings.

He's said it's step one toward normalcy but it still could take a few weeks to get back into his home. Homeowners, he said, are responsible for arranging any necessary inspections and reconnection of their utilities.

"So I'm a little upset with that," he said. "And I'm certainly, obviously, still upset for all those people still inside the evacuation zone, many of them ... businesses that are being affected badly."

Ingram said that concerns over safety will always be there, but he's feeling more comfortable now, given that professionals have been dealing with nearby gas wells.

"We probably won't have a good downtown for a while and we'll probably have to think to relocate it because that would be parking lots and maybe it just becomes parks or something else, but we'll clean it up and make it a good place," he said.

According to Chatham-Kent CAO Don Shropshire, residents and business owners in the evacuation zone will be contacted by either their case worker or another official to talk about all the recent changes. 

The old evacuation zone is marked in red and the new one in green. (Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Shropshire, who recently announced his retirement, said he will stay on the Wheatley file to maintain some consistency for the people affected by the blast. 

Starting Wednesday, the fencing will be relocated beginning in the northwest corner of the evacuation zone. The boundary will continue moving clockwise, according to the release.  The work would take a day or two to complete.

The municipality said that utilities need to be reconnected in the area, and companies will be working with residents to do so smoothly. 

For those with property inside the evacuation zone, the municipality said it will continue to allow access to owners as long as it is safe to do so. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now