While the debris from the site of an explosion in downtown Wheatley is expected to be cleared, the investigation into the source of a Hydrogen Sulphide gas leak continues.
According to a news release from the municipality, debris from the site of the explosion last month will be taken to a landfill facility for proper disposal of any hazardous material such as asbestos.
“There has been no detection of toxic, flammable gas since the explosion on August 26, 2021,” officials said.
Chatham-Kent CAO Don Shropshire said posts on social media this week claiming that a decision has been made to demolish a number of buildings in the area are false.
“The structural integrity of buildings in the vicinity of the blast has not been determined as of yet,” said Shropshire. “Municipal officials will take the appropriate action regarding structures when it is safe to do so.”
Shropshire added that if residents have a question, they can ask it, and they will get answers to them as quickly as they can.
“If you have a concern or heard a rumour, send us a question,” said Shropshire.
There was still no timeline for when evacuated residents would be able to return home. The municipality continues to provide accommodation for nine households with 25 residents. The reception centre at the Wheatley Arena has had 194 visits from 95 unique households. The centre is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.
“Right now, we are still removing the debris, which will make it easier for the ongoing investigation into the source of the gas leak,” said Shropshire. “With respect to getting access to the site, we still haven’t found the source, and until we do that, the site is not safe.”
A mobile RBC unit has been established in the parking lot of the Wheatley Arena while the downtown RBC branch remains closed.
Additionally, electricity has been turned off within the evacuation zone in downtown Wheatley. According to the municipality, natural gas was discovered near some Enbridge lines during the Labour Day Weekend. While it didn’t pose an immediate danger, the electricity was turned off to be safe. No more natural gas has been detected since.
Chatham-Kent municipal employees and members of Chatham-Kent Fire and Emergency Services will now be contacting various Wheatley residents by phone, email and going door-to-door across the area over the course of the next few days to offer reassurance and answer questions and to assist residents with making an emergency plan and collecting information for the Municipal Evacuation Registry in case further evacuations are necessary.
“Residents are being advised to have in place a family emergency plan and put together an emergency kit,” explained Fire Chief Chris Case. “As we have advised, work is still ongoing to find and manage the source of the gas, so we can’t say for sure that further evacuations won’t be necessary. Community safety remains a priority, so please be prepared.”
Emergency kits include essential items a family needs to survive outside of their home should they be asked to leave. They include items such as food, water, important personal documents, medications needed, and a plan for pets. Residents who are not at home will have contact information left at their residence. Resources will also be available at the Reception Centre located at the Wheatley arena.
Wheatley residents concerned about where to vote in the September 20 federal election can enter their address at www.elections.ca to find their polling location.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News