News

Sour natural gas well in Langton area

 Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

LANGTON - 

Several households were evacuated near Langton on Friday following a natural gas leak in a rural neighbourhood.

This wasn’t a gas leak as most people understand them.

This leak didn’t involve a utility, a ruptured pipe or some sheepish backhoe operator who didn’t call before he dug.

Rather, this was a significant, sustained emission from a raw underground deposit.

Norfolk Mayor Charlie Luke reported Friday afternoon that the leak occurred in the area of 1586 North Walsingham Road 10.

After first responders arrived, the order was given to evacuate everyone within 400 metres of the leak.

The mayor reported that three households were evacuated and the concession road closed in the vicinity. The road was re-opened later in the day.

Officials representing the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources were notified. 

“Their job is to gather data, measure it and determine health implications,” Luke said.

There  are “significant levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) related to a gas well” at a property on 10 Concession Road, Langton, the health unit stated in a media release issued on Friday night.

Hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs and at high levels can be flammable, said a fact sheet provided by the health unit.

“Health Unit staff are working with the appropriate property owners, County and Ministry officials to provide support towards the goal of having the issue addressed quickly,” said the release.

An event like this on the Norfolk Sand Plain is unusual. The soil on the sand plain is so light and porous that gases emanating from the earth rarely accumulate in sufficient concentrations to warrant attention.

This is in contrast to the heavy clay loam that serves as the foundation of Haldimand County.

In the 19th century and early 20th century, Haldimand was the epicentre of a natural gas industry that heated, lighted and powered major metropolitan areas such as Hamilton.

The easily-accessible deposits were exhausted long ago but the county is occasionally reminded of its natural gas past with significant emissions in urban areas.

The biggest evacuation of them all occurred in the 1990s in Jarvis. Following the accumulation of gas in a building downtown and a subsequent explosion, City of Nanticoke Mayor Rita Kalmbach declared a state of emergency and ordered an evacuation.

Today, residents of Jarvis are careful to ensure that their buildings, basements and crawl spaces are properly vented.

HYDROGEN SULFIDE FACTS (Source: Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit)::

* Hydrogen sulfide often occurs naturally in some environments (gas wells, sulfur springs, swamps, etc.). It can also be associated with animal farms, industrial plants, sewers or sewage treatment plants.

* The release of hydrogen sulfide from a specific source does not always lead to human exposure. You can only be exposed to the gas when you come into direct contact with it by breathing it in, eating or drinking something contaminated with it, or when it touches your skin. Any absorbed hydrogen sulfide does not accumulate in the body as it is rapidly metabolized in the liver and excreted in the urine. Hydrogen sulfide usually breaks down in the air and therefore exposure is only likely to continue if there is an ongoing source.

* Exposure to low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may cause irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat. It may also cause difficulty in breathing for some people with asthma. Low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may cause headaches, poor memory, tiredness, and balance problems.

* Brief exposures to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (greater than 1000 ppm) can cause a loss of consciousness. In most cases, the person appears to regain consciousness without any other effects. However, in some individuals, there may be permanent or long-term effects such as headaches, poor attention span, poor memory, and poor motor function.

NOTE: Facts reprinted from What Is Hydrogen Sulfide?