Erie Street North buildings damaged by the 2021 gas explosion in downtown Wheatley. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Chatham-Kent council approved spending $3.5 million to purchase five downtown Wheatley properties on Erie Street North, at their council meeting held Monday night.

Municipal officials said that it’s an ongoing process and they will likely be coming back to council in the future to buy more buildings in downtown Wheatley to solve issues with abandoned gas wells in the community.

When the buildings eventually get taken over by the municipality as they move forward, the buildings on Erie Street North will be demolished so inspectors can take a look at finding potential gas sources in the area.

The Wheatley Emergency has been ongoing since 2021 due to hydrogen sulfide gas concerns. In 2021 a gas explosion caused millions of dollars of damage, as well as numerous injuries, in Wheatley’s downtown.

Chatham-Kent is investigating the presence of another gas well in the vicinity of the monitoring well after a consultant’s report noted that another well is feeding the monitoring well from a nearby distance.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Chatham-Kent’s director of public works Ryan Brown gave council an update and the next steps the municipality will take.

He said once the buildings are acquired they will be demolished, but there will be some steps needed to take before demolition, Brown said.

He said if all the properties are acquired with no issues, work can begin as soon as this spring or early summer.

“The real intent of trying is to move forward with this so we can line up the demolition of these buildings and explore underneath them,” Brown said. He added that there is a possibility of wells on the site that have not been found yet.