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Excavation work in Wheatley, Ont., halted after 2nd gas well found near explosion site

Excavation work in Wheatley, Ont., has been been halted following the discovery of a second gas well near the site of an August explosion that injured 20 and has displaced homeowners and businesses.

Excavation of the site of an August explosion in Wheatley, Ont., was halted this week after the discovery of another gas well. (Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Excavation work in Wheatley, Ont., has been halted following the discovery of a second gas well near the site of an August explosion in the centre of the town.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent made the announcement Thursday, saying the newly discovered well is being investigated.

Petroleum inspectors with the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry were on site earlier this week, and the investigation team is examining information gathered about the well and controlling any gas flow.

However, the municipality said “experts are also anticipating another gas event,” with the media release noting that in the past, it has taken between 38 and 47 days for gas to build up and release.

“We anticipate the next release could be within a few days of Dec. 31,” Chatham-Kent’s general manager of infrastructure and engineering services, Thomas Kelly, said in a statement. “We are venting and monitoring the gas to reduce any chance of further issues.”

Firefighters and security will remain on site, the municipality said.

The previous explosion occurred just after 6 p.m. ET on Aug. 26, at the corner of Erie Street North and Talbot Road East. It injured 20 people and destroyed two buildings, and is believed to have been caused by an abandoned gas well.

Gas leaks had been detected in the area on more than one occasion over the summer.

April Rietdyk, Chatham-Kent’s general manager of community and human services and acting CAO, said southwestern Ontario has a “significant” number of gas wells.

“With all the work that’s been done on site, they’ve disturbed a lot of earth and a lot of land trying to do the excavation work that they’ve been working on,” she said. “So we need to now monitor that location, get whatever samples we’re able to get, have the experts in there watching and monitoring, and then determine next steps kind of around that next gas release.”

“That’s a guessing game for that right now,” Rietdyk told CBC News on Thursday. “So now we wait.”

Workers had been in the process of demolishing what was left of the two buildings, and excavating the site, prior to the discovery of the new well.

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