Gas well re­pair cost $200K

Bar­rett blames MNR for Sil­ver Hill emer­gency

The Delhi News-Record - - NEWS - MONTE SONNENBERG MSon­nen­berg@post­media.com

SIL­VER HILL – The cost of cap­ping one of two toxic gas wells in Sil­ver Hill this sum­mer came to $200,000.

Kathryn McGarry, On­tario’s Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, di­vulged the cost dur­ing a dis­cus­sion of the pub­lic health emer­gency in the Leg­is­la­ture at Queen’s Park re­cently.

McGarry was re­spond­ing to ques­tions from Haldimand-Nor­folk MPP Toby Bar­rett.

Bar­rett was seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion for Ian and Kim Grant of North Wals­ing­ham Con­ces­sion Road 10.

The Grants were one of six house­holds evac­u­ated by the Haldimand-Nor­folk Health Unit af­ter an area west of Sil­ver Hill tested pos­i­tive for high lev­els of hy­dro­gen sul­phide gas.

The of­fend­ing well was lo­cated be­hind a barn on the Grants’ prop­erty. The evac­u­a­tion dis­rupted the in­te­rior- dec­o­rat­ing busi­ness the Grants op­er­ate from the build­ing. The health unit or­dered the evac­u­a­tion Aug. 18 and fi­nally lifted it Sept. 14.

Dur­ing Ques­tion Pe­riod Oct. 25, Bar­rett also sought com­pen­sa­tion for Nor­folk County. Nor­folk de­voted a large amount of staff time and re­sources to the sit­u­a­tion – one which in­volved nat­u­ral re­sources for which the prov­ince is re­spon­si­ble.

In re­ject­ing all claims, McGarry said mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are re­spon­si­ble for the cost and dis­charge of emer­gency mea­sures. As for cap­ping de­fec­tive gas wells, McGarry said this too is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pri­vate prop­erty own­ers.

McGarry added, how­ever, that the prov­ince re­serves the right to in­ter­vene by means of its Aban­doned Works Pro­gram “for high-pri­or­ity wells.”

“I want to high­light that my min­istry ex­pe­dited the ten­der­ing process sig­nif­i­cantly, and the cost associated was $ 200,000,” McGarry told the Leg­is­la­ture.

“Mr. Speaker, we can all agree that’s a lot of money. So let’s be clear here – with­out this pro­gram, Ian and Kim Grant – the pri­vate landown­ers – would have nor­mally been re­spon­si­ble for those costs.”

Ian and Kim Grant knew Bar­rett would raise the mat­ter and were in the Leg­is­la­ture for his ex­change with McGarry.

Thurs­day last week, Kim Grant said McGarry didn’t men­tion that old nat­u­ral gas wells in the Sil­ver Hill area have been act­ing up ever since the MNR capped a nat­u­ral gas vent along Big Creek two years ago.

This vent served as a pres­sure-re­lease mech­a­nism for the Sil­ver Hill gas field. Since it was plugged, the wa­ter ta­ble in the area has taken on sul­phuric char­ac­ter­is­tics while sev­eral aban­doned gas wells in the vicin­ity have be­gun spew­ing toxic ef­flu­via.

Bar­rett ref­er­enced the MNR cap­ping ef­fort dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion to the Leg­is­la­ture.

“In March 2015, the Grants were no­ti­fied that a Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources gas re­lief well along Big Creek had been capped,” Bar­rett said. “The Grants were ad­vised that this re­lief well was re­leas­ing toxic wa­ter with high lev­els of hy­dro­gen sul­phide into Big Creek and had to be capped.

“As a re­sult of an ac­tion by the MNR – in my view – the Grants, along with five other fam­i­lies – were or­dered by the Haldimand-Nor­folk Health Unit to va­cate their pri­mary res­i­dences due to fluc­tu­at­ing, un­pre­dictable con­cen­tra­tions of hy­dro­gen sul­phide.”

Hy­dro­gen sul­phide is a cor­ro­sive, flammable gas of­ten associated with nat­u­ral gas pro­duc­tion. Con­cen­tra­tions in ex­cess of five parts per mil­lion are con­sid­ered toxic. Prior to this sum­mer’s cap­ping ex­er­cise, read­ings in the area of the Grant prop­erty have been as high as 17 parts per mil­lion.

Last week, Kim Grant said her fam­ily is most con­cerned about the pos­si­bil­ity of per­sis­tent health ef­fects emerg­ing from their pro­longed ex­po­sure to hy­dro­gen sul­phide. The fam­ily is be­ing mon­i­tored med­i­cally for symp­toms re­lated to hy­dro­gen sul­phide poi­son­ing.

“Ten years from now we could come down with side ef­fects from this,” Kim Grant said. “But right now we seem fine.”

“They shouldn’t be al­lowed to walk all over peo­ple and treat them like this. There is a big­ger is­sue here.”

MONTE SONNENBERG /DELHI NEWS-RECORD

The Tim­bers in­te­rior-dec­o­rat­ing busi­ness in Sil­ver Hill is up and run­ning again now that the prov­ince has capped a toxic nat­u­ral gas well nearby. Tim­bers co-owner Kim Grant dis­plays a set of old light­ning rods that were black­ened in re­cent months from ex­po­sure to high con­cen­tra­tions of cor­ro­sive hy­dro­gen sul­phide gas.

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