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County receiving provincial funds to help identify wells

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There are dozens of decommissioned legacy gas and oil wells in Amherstburg and hundreds scattered throughout Essex County.

At last Wednesday night’s County Council meeting, Windsor-Essex EMS Chief Justin Lammers brought forth a report that not only indicated funding to locate the wells but it sparked conversation about what else the county could be doing as far as emergency preparedness.

“This came as quite a surprise to me as a six-year member of the Town of Amherstburg Council to see all these wells. I don’t think anyone on our council knew they were there,” said Amherstburg Mayor Michael Prue.

Prue said that while he was unaware of oil and gas wells in the municipality, he knew that there are hundreds of brine wells and wondered if there was any risk of those collapsing.

Lammers said he would report back on that query.

In his report, the EMS Chief said that last year the county received $280,000 to initiate a six-step strategic plan which includes communication, training, monitoring and assessment of the wells along with having an emergency response plan.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is putting up $7.5 million over the next three years in Southwestern Ontario to help prevent what occurred in Wheatley in 2021 when an explosion happened that destroyed most of the town’s downtown.

“Government oversight of these operations came into effect only recently, leading to the abandonment of numerous wells without proper closure procedure,” said Lammers.

He added that while the County is spearheading implementation of the safeguards of the wells, it does not assume responsibility for preparedness.

“I think it’s nice that the province realizes it’s out of our scope and they are going to continue with funding,” said Kingsville Mayor Dennis Rogers.

Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy inquired what else the county could be doing in regards to emergency preparedness. She said that in that community there are wind turbines that are beginning to leak oil and damage crops.

Deputy Warden Joe Bachetti, who chaired the meeting for absent Warden Hilda MacDonald, reminded council of the barn fire at the Jobin Farm a few years ago and wondered what lessons could be learned from that.

Bondy also wanted to know if training could be done locally in case of large barn fires where animals are subject to harm.

Lammers added that the reason the county can move forward in regard to identifying the risks of the oil and gas wells is that, “this is a perfect example of the County of Essex leading a project with support of all municipal partners to improve the safety of the entire region.”

County receiving provincial funds to help identify wells

By Fred Groves


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