Underground radar being used to survey area around Wheatley explosion site

·3 min read
A firefighter stands in front of the rubble left by an explosion in the core of Wheatley on Aug. 26, 2021. (Mike Evans/CBC - image credit)
A firefighter stands in front of the rubble left by an explosion in the core of Wheatley on Aug. 26, 2021. (Mike Evans/CBC - image credit)

Work to complete a geophysical survey of the area around the site of an explosion in Wheatley, Ont., begins Tuesday.

In a news release, Thomas Kelly, Chatham-Kent general manager of engineering and infrastructure services, said it will involve the use of ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic technology to map the area underneath the surface.

It will give more information about soil features, non-metallic objects and any abandoned steel-cased wells.

In addition, gas monitoring is underway.

"The goal of this work is to determine the precise source of the gas emission," Kelly said in the release. "Once this information is known, next steps will be to determine the appropriate remediation strategy."

"Until we can find the source of the gas, we really don't have a plan to figure out if we can mitigate it to remediate any sort of future events that would be similar to that," said Chatham-Kent chief administrative officer Don Shropshire, in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Kathryn Parent (@_phos3)/Twitter
Kathryn Parent (@_phos3)/Twitter

Kelly said the work is expected to take about two weeks, but could be longer depending on what is found during the survey. He also said safety is a priority.

"The gas that caused the explosion is both toxic and flammable," he said.

"We appreciate the public's patience and understanding that work must proceed in a careful and methodical manner to ensure a continued safe working environment for all."

Shropshire said work is being done quickly so people can get back to their properties.

Reaching residents

Last week, residents were told it could be up to six months before they can move back home. The municipality and province are working to find solutions.

"There's a group working on, you know, providing longer term housing arrangements. We've had people living in hotels for a number of weeks. Some people have been staying with family," he said.

"That's good for a couple of weeks, maybe. But if you're staying with family and friends and it's going to be several months, that may not be a sustainable solution."

Shropshire said the municipality and province are doing what they can to alleviate some of the stress residents and business owners are feeling.

"You've got some people that are out of their homes, you've got other people that are unable to work because their their place of business was in the evacuated area," he said.

"It's not the same as being at home. There's no question we want to get people back in their properties as soon as possible, but at least in the short term, their basic needs are going to be taken care of."

The municipality said it is also still trying to reach out to some residents it hasn't been able to get in touch with about relief options.

Letters are being sent to those residents, the municipality said.

In addition to destroying two buildings, the explosion on Aug. 26 injured 20 people and displaced more than 100.

More from CBC Windsor:

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting