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Province spending $2M in southwestern Ontario to combat old oil, gas wells

This is the corner where the explosion took place in downtown Wheatley as seen in December 2022. (Chatham-Kent  - image credit)
This is the corner where the explosion took place in downtown Wheatley as seen in December 2022. (Chatham-Kent - image credit)

A handful of counties and municipalities across southwestern Ontario will receive a combined $2 million this year to help them manage risks posed by old and inactive oil and gas wells.

The money will "enhance emergency preparedness … and prevent emergencies," the province said in a news release on Thursday.

"We heard from municipalities across southern Ontario that they need help addressing the complex challenges related to inactive oil and gas wells in their communities," said Graydon Smith, Ontario's minister of natural resources and forestry.

In its first year, nine municipalities and counties — including Essex County, Norfolk County, Lambton County and the Municipality of Chatham-Kent — will receive $2 million between them to improve emergency preparedness and risk prevention.

The announcement was made in Norfolk County Thursday morning.

The complete list of municipalities receiving funding in year one is: Municipality of Chatham-Kent, Lambton County, Oxford County, Brant County, Elgin County, Essex County,  Haldimand County, Regional Municipality of Niagara and Norfolk County.

The money is part of a three-year, $7.5-million provincial program to tackle the issue of old and inactive oil wells.

An explosion in Wheatley, Ont., in August 2021 after a hydrogen sulphide leak in the area injured people and destroyed and damaged multiple downtown buildings. Three wells were plugged in the aftermath of the explosion.