OPINION: Passing the buck

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(Image courtesy Mark Ribble, The Southpoint Sun)

About the only good thing you can say about the Wheatley explosion on Aug. 26 is thank God someone was not killed.

That is a testament to our emergency services personnel quickly responding and assessing the situation.

Last Thursday, less than 90 minutes after gas-detections alarms started going off on Erie Street near the site of two previous hydrogen sulphide emissions this summer – in June and July – the explosion shook Wheatley, all but destroying two buildings and badly damaging others.

Twenty people were hurt in the blast.

It’s only a matter of time before lawyers line up to file lawsuits in connection to this.

After all, the old saying is: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

This was the third event, however. Back in June, municipal officials responded to the smell of rotten eggs and discovered the gas leaking in a building’s basement. They requested the province step in and seek out what was causing the emission.

At the time, there were questions over if this was a natural emission or a leak from an abandoned gas well.

Considering there are hundreds of abandoned gas wells in southwestern Ontario, including two in the proximity of the site of the explosion, a leaking well is the odds-on favourite as the cause.

The problem is the provincial government was slow to respond. Ministries were pointing fingers and passing the buck. A well issue falls under the purview of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry; a natural emission could lead to more shoulder shrugs and finger pointing.

And along came the second hydrogen sulphide emission in July.

More buck passing at the provincial level and nothing gets done.

The gas stops seeping and everything goes back to normal. Except, can you imagine what “normal” was for Wheatley residents? They were sitting on a ticking bomb, so to speak. Hydrogen sulphide is poisonous, corrosive and flammable.

And now one building is gone, another so severely damaged it will have to come down, with several more in various states of heavy damage from the concussion and flying debris.

This cannot happen again…anywhere.

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