'This is a cautionary tale': Two GTA MPP’s demand action for Wheatley residents

Explosion aftermath in Wheatley, Ont. (Courtesy Kyle Mills)

NDP MPP’s from Hamilton and Toronto are calling on the province to do more for the people displaced by the Aug. 26 gas explosion in Wheatley.

“The premier and the minister have just gone silent on this,” says Sandy Shaw, MPP for Hamilton-West, Ancaster and Dundas.

“I cannot imagine what its been like these past few months to live with the fear of these gas leaks,” says Shaw. “To then have one (an explosion) happen, and not get any clear answers, any reassurances that it won’t happen again.”

Shaw and Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns wrote a letter to Greg Rockford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNDMNRF).

“This is a cautionary tale,” said Shaw.

Read the entire letter here.

On Aug. 26, an explosion at the main intersection in Wheatley levelled one building, destroyed part of an other, and damaged most of the other buildings on the block.

About 20 people were injured, including municipal staff members who were actively evacuating residents at the time of the explosion.

A large portion of the core of the village has been evacuated and on lock down ever since.

Chatham-Kent CAO Don Shropshire says there haven’t been any gas readings since the explosion, but the number of people seeking help is increasing.

“We currently have 95 different families that have come to our assistance centre,” says Shropshire.

“They were staying with family or friends. Now they’re coming back in and saying you know, it’s been a couple of weeks, now we need some additional support.”

The municipality has established an assistance centre for displaced residents and business owners.

It has been three weeks, and Shropshire admits they still can’t say when they will be able to go back to their homes or businesses.

“Without knowing what the source (of the explosion) is or how long it’s going to take to find, you really can’t provide a good answer to that question,” says Shropshire.

He says they are waiting to see the province’s safety and work plan for the explosion site, which is the next step in figuring out what happened.

“We appreciate that there does have to be a plan,” says Shropshire.“We recognize there’s some risks involved when you have a H2S (hydrogen sulphide) gas, so you want them to take time to prepare a good safety plan and a work plan but there’s also that to be balanced with people want to get back into their homes.”

Shaw and Tabuns are calling on Premier Ford, Minister Pickford and the MNDMNRF to speed up the pace of their investigation and to create an industry funded clean-up program.

“I know that people have said that these wells are old, that some of these companies have gone bankrupt but that doesn’t excuse an entire industry that continues to profit from oil and gas,” says Shaw.

CTV News has submitted several requests for comment from MNDMNRF, but has not yet received a response.