By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Work to ensure downtown Wheatley is safe from future explosions is stepping up.
Chatham-Kent Fire Service Chief Chris Case said local residents may experience extra noise and activity as workers re-drill what is known as the Tait (APEC 2) well located in the municipality’s downtown parking lot.
Case told a municipal press conference last week large equipment is on site and there may be some gas flaring.
The well is being re-drilled to collect gas samples and analyze the existing structure while preparing for re-abandonment.
Two other wells, known as APEC 1 and 3 will also probed, with the work to commence once APEC 2 is finished.
In the meantime, costs associated with mitigating Wheatley’s natural gas explosion and emissions continue to mount.
According to a recently released municipal expense sheet, the Wheatley disaster has cost Chatham-Kent $5.5-million.
Fire and emergency services account for $1.9-million, of which $1 million are wages.
Infrastructure and engineering fees total $1.4 million, with contract and consulting costs totalling $1.2 million.
Police service wages total $351,200.
Ontario has only committed $2 million to the municipality for mitigation thus far, however, Mayor Darrin Canniff said talks are ongoing with the province to procure more funding for expenses not covered.
A state of emergency was declared in Wheatley June 2, when hydrogen sulphide was detected presumably coming from old gas wells.
Although the situation was continuously monitored, a serious explosion followed in late August, levelling a couple buildings and damaging others.
Residents and business owners in the downtown area have been unable to return to their homes due to an ongoing evacuation order.
The matter was set to come before Chatham-Kent council for discussion March 28.