It’s not often you pick up a copy of the Globe & Mail and see your sister and her family on the front page, but it’s also not everyday that a town somewhere in Ontario almost blows up. Around dinner time on August 26, two buildings in Wheatley’s downtown area exploded. The source, apparently, is a gas leak, but nobody’s sure and dozens of residents were relocated for safety. One of them was my sister.
Let’s rewind. In June, people in the downtown area of Wheatley had to be evacuated when area businesses detected a whiff of hydrogen sulphide gas, but residents were allowed to go back home even though they didn’t find the source of the smell. The process was repeated again late in July when a gas monitor detected another leak, but the hazmat crews said that the source of the gas was “deep within the earth. A thermogenic gas response.”
The monitors went off again on August 26, and 90 minutes later, while in the process of getting people clear of the area, at least two buildings were destroyed, several more were damaged, and people living in the area around the core were evacuated again, but this time, they haven’t been allowed to go back. One of them is Stephanie Charbonneau who is a school teacher, mother of two, and a resident of Wheatley, Ontario. She’s also my younger sister.
It’s rare that you have a personal connection to a story like this, so I invited Stephanie to pop onto Zoom with me and talk about Wheatley’s problems on this week’s podcast. We talk about what happened before, during and after August 26, and we also talk about the information void, and whether the Wheatley disaster has gotten enough attention. We will also discuss the political reaction to the disaster, and how residents are being proactive to stay informed about when they might be able to go home.
So let’s talk about what happened in Wheatley this week on the Guelph Politicast!
The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry is currently exploring the cause of the explosion, and they will likely be the source of any update about what happened last summer. There is a GoFundMe page raising money for people affected, and for a pretty good tick-tock about what happened in Wheatley, check out this piece by Matthew Trevithick, a reporter for 980 CFPL in London.
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