Blast zone cleanup in Wheatley complete

A fundraising fish fry raised more than $23,000 to aid the Wheatley Disaster Relief Fund on Sunday at Two Creeks Conservation Area. Cars were lined along both sides of Kent Road 1 as the parking lots at Two Creeks overflowed with patrons. A new band called Wheatley Band Together played tunes on the Two Creeks stage, with several local businesses supplying all of the food, utensils and volunteers to cook and package the food. More than 600 people were fed when all was said and done. (Image courtesy The Southpoint Sun)

By Mark Ribble
The Southpoint Sun

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent has announced that the clean up of debris within the immediate area of 15 Erie St. N. in Wheatley is complete.

Tons of debris was cleaned up and taken away in large disposal bins last week as investigators continue to search for the hydrogen sulphide gas leak that has eluded them so far.

A media call held last Thursday cleared up some rumours and speculation about the future of the remaining Erie Street North buildings in that area.

“The structural integrity of buildings in the vicinity of the blast has not been determined as of yet,” C-K CAO Don Shropshire said. “Municipal officials will take the appropriate action regarding structures when it is safe to do so.”

Shropshire warned that people sharing photos and speculating on social media as to the future of the block are hindering the investigation.

“We count on the media to get our message out and we trust them to do so,” he said. “Facebook rumours cannot be trusted.”

He reiterated his pleas for everyone to stay away until the leak is found and dealt with.

The debris that filled the street and nearby alleys has been taken away with precautions taken due to possible asbestos and other contaminants in those old buildings.

A clear picture is starting to emerge of what remains and that should help investigators in their quest to find the elusive leak and get it plugged.

A strong odour drifted through many parts of Wheatley on Sept. 11, prompting speculation that the gas leak had returned, but gas level monitors detected no gas. It was eventually blamed on lake inversion, which happens when the warm surface water cools quickly and the warm water underneath rises to the surface.

Municipal officials were busy on the weekend going door-to-door in the village, answering questions and giving out pertinent information to residents.

Meanwhile, the community continues to wrap its arms around those residents directly affected by the blast.

The reception centre at Wheatley Arena is approaching 200 visits from 100 unique households. The centre is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Anyone in need can call 519-351-8573 and ask to speak to a Wheatley Crisis Case Manager. After hours, you can call 519-354-6628.

About 25 residents remained in accommodations provided by the municipality as of Friday.

RBC has set-up a mobile bank in the Wheatley Arena parking lot with bank employees on-site during regular business hours.

Adamson Guardian Drugs is operating out of the Thomson Guardian Drugs location in Leamington. Wheatley customers should still call the Wheatley number at 519-825-4111.

Wheatley mail is still being handled in Leamington until further notice.

Basic food items such as bread and milk, etc., are available for purchase at Mercer’s Service Centre, on the corner of Talbot St. E. and Little St., at Heidi’s Eats & Sweets and Dockside Fisheries at 913 Drovers Rd.

Community efforts are still being coordinated through Active Citizens of Wheatley, Wheatley BIA and the Food Bank.

The GoFundMe page set up by Lauren Anderson and Kim Grant has more than doubled its goal by raising over $40,000 for the Disaster Relief Fund.

The Wheatley Strong fish fry on Sunday was a huge success with parked cars overflowing onto Kent Road 1 as locals gathered to help the cause.

As investigators continue their efforts to find and solve the gas leak issue, the people of Wheatley and surrounding area continue their efforts to come together as one.



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