The investigation into what caused the gas explosion that rocked downtown Wheatley in August has a possible breakthrough.
CAO Don Shropshire says an abandoned well was discovered near the epicenter of the blast. “There’s been gas sampling done and we’re waiting for the results… Those would be compared to the samples taken from the initial gas that was released at 15 Erie Street North."
“The technical advisory team will be able to confirm whether or not that was the same source,” says Shropshire.
He says this well is present in old records and the municipality expected it would be found during the search. But even if the gas does match gas from the blast, it might not solve the mystery entirely.
“There’s still a bunch of work to be done on the investigation side and there’s no reason to suspect there couldn’t be additional sources as well,” says Shropshire. “But that’s a significant move forward for us to confirm it rather than just relying on the records.”
It’s now more than two months since the explosion and residents and business owners in the evacuated area still aren’t able to return to their properties. But this week it was announced some businesses may finally be in for a break.
Premier Doug Ford visited Wheatley in September and pledged $2 million in relief for affected businesses. Tuesday, applications opened for the approximately 40 businesses and non-profit organizations who have suffered loss from the incident.
“The first phase is for immediate emergency financial relief and the second is for re-establishment of businesses and relocation if needed,” says Stuart McFadden, director of economic development services. “We are urging all businesses affected by the explosion to apply.”
Applications are open until Nov. 15 and can be found on the municipal website.
It’s still not clear when it will be safe for people to physically return to their homes or stores. “A lot of folks have lost income if they had a business in the evacuation area and certainly property owners have had some extraordinary expenses,” says Shropshire.
“We are doing everything we can to double down on the urgency. We recognize this has been really tough for people and it continues to be.”
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent