Wheatley residents might be evacuated for months after explosion

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It might take months to discover the cause of a Wheatley gas leak and evacuees are being urged to contact the Municipality of Chatham-Kent regarding long-term assistance.

The municipality is asking Wheatley residents and businesses affected by the Aug. 26 explosion to contact them with concerns and questions as soon as possible.

"The news from the firm hired by the province is that it may take months to discover the cause of the H2S gas leak changes the scope of our response," said Chatham-Kent CAO Don Shropshire. "We need to gather information so we can assess the need for shelter, amenities and other assistance."

Mayor Darrin Canniff said since the needs of each individual vary, it is important that everyone affected get In touch with the municipality If they want to be Included in aid efforts.

"We need residents to help us so we can help them,” said Caniff. “We need to be able to direct funding to those who need it but we can't know the needs until we're informed."

Community Human Services staff have received input from many of the 95 households in the evacuation zone and are continuing phone and email contacts where applicable. Economic Development staff are reaching out to each of the 39 businesses in the area.

The municipality is urging all residents who believe they have insurance related Issues to contact their insurer as soon as possible.

"Our director of legal services has prepared a letter confirming the evacuation for anyone considering filing a claim," Shropshire said. "Copies are available online or at the Wheatley Resource Centre at 108 Talbot Street,

WHO TO CONTACT:

Residents who have not been contacted for housing food or other support should call 519-351-8573 Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and ask to speak with a Wheatley Crisis Case Manager.

Businesses have not been contacted should call Stuart McFadden, Director of Economic Development at 519-784-3502

FUNDING FOR BUSINESS RECOVERY:

Municipal officials met with members of the Wheatley Business Improvement Association Wednesday night to provide initial information on $2 million in initial funding for business recovery announced by the provincial government Saturday.

"We don't have all of the answers to how the funds will be accessed yet but we wanted to meet with business owners and operators and get their feedback," Shropshire said.

During that meeting it was announced that residential and business customers within the Wheatley evacuation zone are not being charged fees by Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission and Entegrus,

Customers will receive bills up to the date at which their utilities were shut off. Customers with questions can visit www.entegrus.com or contact Entegrus customer service Monday - Friday, 8:30am - 4:30pm at 1-866-804-7325 (Option 2 for Customer Service). It is recommended to have a recent bill available for the call.

NO TIMETABLE TO CHECK ON HOMES

As work continues on finding the source of the gas, Shropshire said there is no timetable for residents to return to their homes to check on their homes and to retrieve items.

"The issue of safety remains our first priority," he said. "We have equipment arriving on site in the near future which only increases our concerns. We have taken the issue of access to homes to the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) who is completing a work plan during the next week to 10 days. Until we know more, we can't allow access."