Look deeper by Ed Janicki, Letter to the Editor Globe and Mail, Feb 7, 2022
Re Little Orphan Oil Well On The Prairie (Editorial, Jan. 28):
Cost estimates for remediation are likely to be much higher if we consider a little discussed impact: groundwater contamination. Restoring the surface is the easy and cheap part. Remediating groundwater is difficult and expensive.
We know many wells are leaking underground, as evidenced by surface indications. Well records suggest that many others could be leaking into groundwater.
The condition of groundwater around oil and gas activity is not meaningfully monitored or measured, so we don’t know if the problem is big or small.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Ed Janicki Victoria
Refer also to:
Frac’ing Ontario? Wheatley (thermogenic corrosive) sour gas explosion injures 20, destroys two buildings, more, many families displaced. Still leaking, area remains at risk of more explosions like Hutchinson Kansas where two were killed in their home from industry’s leaking gas migrating 7 miles. Chatham-Kent top administrator, Don Shropshire: “Our area has hundreds, if not thousands of abandoned gas wells. They stretch from Niagara Peninsula to Windsor.” Also exploded from industry’s gas 85 years ago. The community must be relocated. But, where?
The embed code for the video will not work on my site, so I took some snaps in case the video vanishes from public access. Currently, the video is still viewable at above link.
A newly surfaced video of the Wheatley, Ont., explosion shows the incredible force of the blast that hit the small town’s core last summer.
It is also bringing back tough memories for residents of the community, located about 70 kilometres southeast of Windsor in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.
“That was our village, that’s where we all went to gather,” said Rebecca Lamb of the downtown intersection seen in the 44-second video. Lamb and her husband remain out of their home, which is nearby and was badly damaged.
“It brought back a lot of very, very sad times.”
The video, obtained by CBC Windsor this week, was captured by a security camera at a business across the street and gives the clearest view yet of the Aug. 26, 2021, explosion.
It shows the moment, at 6:13 p.m. ET, the powerful blast sent a cloud of smoke and debris flying into the air. Bystanders are seen fleeing while firefighters, who were responding to elevated gas level alarms in the area, immediately begin responding. None wearing appropriate protection from the known sour gas leaking that caused the explosion. Sour gas is deadly. How much brain damage did the firefighters suffer?
It sent some to hospital with injuries, destroyed at least two buildings and damaged several more. The cause is still under investigation but it’s suspected to be the result of gas leaking from an underground well.
Lamb witnessed the explosion from her car.
“I felt it,” she said. “When I went to stop, all of a sudden my car jumped … I thought ‘what was wrong with my brakes?'”
“I just looked up and said ‘Oh my God.'”
She says the video doesn’t show how high the debris was thrown into the air.
“It went way up in the air, it went straight up,” she said. “Things were flying in the air, a lot of insulation, a lot of everything. I saw two-by-fours, just — woo — flying up.”
Mario Amaral was driving a black truck that can be seen in the video on his way to pick up a bag of milk at the Circle K.
He says he hit the deck in his truck the moment he heard the blast. He felt debris hit his truck before lifting his head back up and driving off.
“That’s when I saw that cloud of dust coming,” he said. “I didn’t care if it was a red light or not, I was getting the heck out of there.”
“I can’t believe nobody got killed.”
Based on what’s in the video, the mixture of gas and air at the time of the explosion was likely just right for “something really bad to happen,” said Richard Meier, a fire and explosion expert based in Florida. Meier is not involved in the investigation.
“It’s kind of the Goldilocks combination,” he said of the likely gas/air mixture, adding it takes an extremely small spark to ignite an explosion.
“A cat walking under a couch … and little static electricity can set it off,” he said.
“It takes very little energy. So if there’s a candle, a pilot light, somebody clicking on a light switch, all of those are competent ignition sources to ignite a flammable air-gas mixture like that.”
Two abandoned wells have been found in the area and a team from the province continues to investigate whether they are the source of the leak suspected to have caused the blast, or if it comes from elsewhere.
Municipality officials said earlier this week the goal of work being done in the area is to permanently stop the gas leak My condolences to residents and business owners, but it’s impossible to permanently or completely stop sour gas leaks – it’s a corrosive gas and will eventually eat through whatever they plug it with or find new pathways, leaving the area always at risk of new leaks, new damages to health, notably the brain, and new explosions, to reduce the evacuation zone and find a way to allow residents and businesses to get back to their buildings.
CBC News requested to speak with Chatham Kent Fire Services but officials declined, saying they could not speak to the video as it is part of an active investigation.
Industry’s leaking gases are deadly, challenging and expensive to fix. Industry has known this for decades, which is why companies just walk away, leaving the devastating leaks, groundwater contamination, and home and town explosions to us – enabled by regulators (because they too know the leaks cannot be stopped and they don’t give a damn. Regulators (AER and BCOGC are 100% industry-funded) are just about rubber stamping more and more drilling and frac’ing of more and more leakers.
Industry’s leaking sour gas is deadlier and much more difficult to deal with.
I dedicate this post to Rob Schwartz, past director of the Alberta Surface Rights Group.