Province investing an additional $11 million to help community recover from explosion
The Ontario government is providing an additional $11 million in funding to support the municipality of Chatham-Kent with ongoing emergency management, investigation and community recovery expenses related to the Wheatley explosion in August 2021.
On August 26, 2021, an explosion occurred in downtown Wheatley because of gas surfacing through an old water well in the area. Three wells of concern were located and plugged in September 2022.
“The explosion that occurred in Wheatley almost two years ago to the day was an unprecedented event,” said Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
“More support is needed to alleviate the financial burden Chatham-Kent continues to face. That’s why we are providing additional funding to the municipality as they continue to recover and rebuild the community of Wheatley.”
The province will continue to provide technical support to Chatham-Kent in its ongoing monitoring and investigation efforts to keep the community safe.
“The province has stood with Wheatley businesses since the beginning. Through our Business Recovery Program, we continue to ensure local businesses have the support they need to recover and provide the Wheatley community with goods, services, and jobs,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.
Today’s funding includes:
- $8 million for direct emergency expenses, such as gas monitoring, security and ongoing external investigations.
- $3 million to support Chatham-Kent’s ongoing risk management and investigation efforts to add more safety infrastructure to the explosion site.
- $225,000 to help Chatham-Kent fund a committee of residents and businesses tasked with supporting community redevelopment.
“The community of Wheatley continues to show amazing tenacity and patience as we navigate the path to regrowth together,” said Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff.
“This funding will ensure the future of Wheatley is both brighter and safer. Chatham-Kent would like to thank the dedicated and collaborative efforts of the provincial government, which has provided support to the people of Wheatley throughout this challenging process.”
The new funding builds on the more than $27 million the province has invested to date to support the investigation, recovery and monitoring activities in Chatham-Kent, as well as support for eligible businesses and residents.
“Our government continues to work closely with our municipal partners to help them address potential hazards and keep their communities safe,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“In addition to the new funding announced today, we are extending the Wheatley Residents Assistance Program through March 2024 for residents who remain evacuated from their homes. We are dedicated to supporting the Wheatley community to help ensure the Municipality of Chatham-Kent has the tools they need to keep residents safe.”
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry administers the Abandoned Works Program, which supports the plugging of inactive oil and gas wells that are at heightened risk to public safety or the environment by providing financial assistance to eligible landowners. To date, $29.5 million has been invested to plug 415 wells across the province.
Ontario has records for approximately 27,000 oil and gas wells, primarily on private land in southwestern Ontario.
The province previously announced a $26 million investment to manage the risks posed by old oil and gas wells and subsurface gas migration hazards to help keep people and communities across Ontario safe.
A portion of this funding will be dedicated to helping municipalities – including Chatham-Kent – facing complex challenges related to the production of petroleum resources that occurred in their communities.
“The Ontario government’s commitment to our community’s recovery from the Wheatley explosion remains steadfast. This additional $11 million funding demonstrates their dedication to helping us rebuild and heal,” said Trevor Jones, MPP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington.
“This investment will not only help to alleviate the financial strain, but also bring a renewed sense of hope to Wheatley. This support strengthens our resolve to come together, overcome challenges, and restore Wheatley to a thriving community once again.”
August 23, 2023
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry