As work continues on capping old gas wells in Wheatley, government officials say the evacuation zone will be reduced once again.

During a virtual town hall on Saturday, Municipal CAO Don Shropshire said ongoing gas monitoring in the area has shown no significant emissions as crews have been working on the old Tait well behind where the Pogue once stood.

“We’re happy to report that although there had been some minor emissions, there’s no significant emissions that would cause a reason for concern,” Shropshire said. “We have confidence that the evacuation zone can be limited, with an end result that there are going to be far fewer people that are going be impacted by the extension of work beyond May.”

Shropshire said the Tait well has now been capped, but more work needs to be done on two other wells in the area, which is expected to take another eight weeks.

Theresa Watson, an Alberta-based gas well engineer working with the emergency team in Wheatley said gas readings in the area have been negligible, with hydrogen sulphide monitoring at each emission point showing less than 1000 parts per million since early January.

“When we say we’re getting 1000 parts per million H2S, it’s in bubbles. Somebody asked me once ‘well, how much maybe in a day,’ maybe as much as a cow would fart is some of the ways I describe the level of flow,” Watson explained with a chuckle. “We have had very, very, very minimal flow rates, in terms of emissions getting off the site in any way, shape, or form seems highly unlikely.”

Chatham-Kent Fire Chief Chris Case believes this will be the final reduction in the evacuation zone before the entire situation is resolved.

Case managers will be working with residents and property owners in the newly-released evacuation zone to work through the process of having utilities and services reconnected and starting to repair damages.

April Rietdyk, Chatham-Kent’s General Manager of Health and Family Services said more properties in the affected area are multi-unit dwellings, so case managers will also help tenants and landlords and property owners navigate the next steps.

In the meantime, provincial financial assistance for accommodations will continue to be available for affected residents until they are able to actually occupy their homes once again.