An explosion in downtown Wheatley on August 26, 2021 brings a building down to rubble  (Screengrab via Chatham-Kent Fire Twitter)An explosion in downtown Wheatley on August 26, 2021 brings a building down to rubble (Screengrab via Chatham-Kent Fire Twitter)

CK urging swift action from province following Wheatley gas explosion

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is urging the province to quickly determine the source of a hydrogen sulphide leak that caused an explosion in Wheatley's downtown core this week.

CK Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said municipal staff met with representatives of the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on Saturday morning to convey the level of urgency.

"I am certain provincial officials are fully aware of the issue and the consequences of inaction," Shropshire said in a news release. "The province is committed to bringing in technical experts to assess how they can enter the evacuated zone with the aim of finding the source of the leak, stopping it and beginning the cleanup."

The explosion occurred on Thursday at 6 p.m., on Erie Street and Talbot Road East. Two buildings were destroyed in the blast with several surrounding buildings also damaged by flying debris.

The site was quickly evacuated by police and the public has been asked to avoid the area.

According to the municipality, 20 people received medical aid following the blast. Three people were transported to the hospital with severe but non-life-threatening injuries and four people were transported to the hospital with minor to moderate injuries. As of Saturday, one Chatham-Kent employee remains in hospital as the result of a blast.

Municipal staff and the Ontario Fire Marshall’s Office remained at the site of the explosion on Saturday, as they continue to consult with technical experts. The municipality said officials continue to analyze the current risks in the area and are considering adjustments to the evacuation area and detour routes.

"Our primary consideration has been and continues to be public safety," said Shropshire. "We recognize that this situation is difficult for residents and businesses in Wheatley and we will make whatever accommodation we can make but only if we can do so in a safe manner. At this point, the situation remains unstable."

The explosion comes not long after hydrogen sulphide leaks were discovered in the same area of Wheatley in early June and again in July. Both gas leaks prompted evacuation orders and a state of emergency was declared.

Hydrogen sulphide is a naturally occurring gas that comes from deep in the earth and can be toxic and flammable.

-With files from Allanah Wills and Ruby Sweeney

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