Determining the cause of a hydrogen sulphide gas leak suspected of causing a massive explosion in downtown Wheatley could take months to discover.
As a result of the news, Wheatley residents and businesses affected by the August 26 explosion are being urged to contact the municipality with concerns and questions as soon as possible.
“The news from the firm hired by the province is that it may take months to discover the cause of the H2S gas leak changes the scope of our response,” said Chatham-Kent CAO Don Shropshire. “We need to gather information so we can assess the need for shelter, amenities and other assistance.”
Since the needs of each individual vary, Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said it’s critical that everyone impacted by the explosion get in touch with the municipality if they want to be included in aid efforts.
“We need residents to help us so we can help them,” Canniff said. “We need to be able to direct funding to those who need it, but we can’t know the needs until we’re informed.”
So far, Community Human Services staff have received input from many of the 95 households in the evacuation zone and continue phone and email contacts where applicable. Economic Development staff are reaching out to each of the 39 businesses in the area.
The municipality urges all residents who believe they have insurance-related issues to contact their insurer as soon as possible.
“Our Director of Legal Services has prepared a letter confirming the evacuation for anyone considering filing a claim,” Shropshire said. “Copies are available online or at the Wheatley Resource Centre at 108 Talbot Street.”
“We don’t have all of the answers to how the funds will be accessed yet, but we wanted to meet with business owners and operators and get their feedback,” Shropshire said.
During that meeting, it was announced that residential and business customers within the Wheatley evacuation zone are not charged fees by Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission and Entegrus.
As work continues on finding the source of the gas, Shropshire said there is no timetable for residents to return to their homes.
“The issue of safety remains our first priority,” added Shropshire. “We have equipment arriving on-site in the near future, which only increases our concerns.
“Shropshire said they have taken the issue of access to homes to the Technical Advisory Group who is completing a work plan during the next week to 10 days.
“Until we know more, we can’t allow access,” said Shropshire.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News