Municipality reaches deal with province to move Wheatley explosion investigation forward

Many roads remain blocked in downtown Wheatley, Ont., on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. (Melanie Borrelli / CTV Windsor)

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent has signed an agreement with the provincial Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry to take the lead into the investigation of the source of a major gas explosion in Wheatley.

Officials believe hydrogen sulfide gas exploded on Aug. 26 – destroying or damaging several downtown buildings.

The agreement outlines the ministry’s commitment to identify the source of the hydrogen sulphide gas believe to be the cause and to recommend ways to prevent future gas leaks.

Chatham-Kent Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said the agreement moves the investigation to the next level.

"We have been preparing the site for further investigation while focusing on public safety," he said. "The safety of our residents remains key for our first responders and the province will be taking the lead on its portion of the work."

Shropshire said the municipality would be meeting with the province and its experts to provide a timeline for residents as soon as possible.

Mayor Darrin Canniff said he is pleased that the investigation is moving forward.

"We are encouraging the province to expedite the investigation process and to determine what can be done financially to help the residents and businesses that have been effected. I'm confident the premier and cabinet is giving the matter strong consideration."

HELP FOR RESIDENTS

Municipal outreach services for Wheatley residents have relocated to the Wheatley Village Resource Centre and Food Bank at 108 Talbot Street East. Case managers will be on site to assist evacuees with housing, food, and other support services. This service will operate Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. during the week of Sept. 20 to September 24.

Evacuees may also call 519-351-8573 Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm and ask to speak with a Wheatley Crisis Case Manager for assistance with housing, food, and other support services.

Residents requiring emergency housing outside of weekday office hours may call the Homeless Response Line (HRL) at (519) 354-6628.

Residents requiring general information should call (519) 360 – 1998 or 311 Monday- Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To subscribe to email updates please email ck311@chatham-kent.ca.

The Wheatley Recovery Group has been essential to the recovery efforts as the group has connected residents in need, identified service gaps in the community, and launched the Wheatley BIA Disaster Relief Fund application via the Municipal website.

“Being a member of the Wheatley Recovery Group and the partnership with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent has helped our community because we have been able to identify needs, collect and distribute goods, and connect people who don’t know where to turn,” said Kim Little, treasurer of the Wheatley BIA and Wheatley Recovery Group Member.