'It is unacceptable for the people of Wheatley to live in fear': Chatham-Kent officials call for action plan from province following explosion
Chatham-Kent officials are calling on the province to “use its authority and expertise” to respond to a recurring gas leak believed to be the cause of an explosion in downtown Wheatley, Ont. that levelled a building on Thursday.
A statement from the municipality said the hydrogen sulphide leak is the third detected since June. The area has been evacuated twice and one was underway when Thursday’s explosion happened.
"I want to express my thanks for the more than 100 first responders and municipal staff who saved lives by evacuating as much of the area as they could before the explosion," Mayor Darrin Caniff said. "But we cannot allow this situation to continue."
"It is unacceptable for the people of Wheatley to live in fear. We are continuing our calls for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to take control of the situation and use its authority and expertise to find the source of the leak and correct the issue."
Twenty people received medical attention and a Chatham-Kent employee remains in hospital as a result of the explosion that decimated a building on 15 Erie Street North as well as severely damaged others in the Erie and Talbot Street intersections, Caniff said.
A two-block area around the explosion site has been evacuated and will continue to be condoned off.
“A hazmat team has placed monitors around the perimeter of the evacuated area and there is gas being detected. It is too dangerous to enter the area,” Chatham-Kent Fire Chief Chris Case said. “The risk of another explosion is very real."
With that threat, CK Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire hopes the province will see the situation’s urgency.
“We have provided the ministry with all of the information we have been able to gather that indicates this leak is coming from an abandoned gas well. It is clear that the province has the responsibility, the authority and the expertise to act,” he said.
Shropshire said the lives of first responders and residents are at risk.
"We cannot expect those members of our community or those individuals from Windsor-Essex who responded to put their lives on the line in this manner,” he said.
A tweet from Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued Friday morning said the province will continue to work with the municipality to support them, “any way we can.”
Municipal officials in Chatham-Kent have requested a meeting with the province to demand a formal plan of action.