Officials look for solution to natural gas leak near Langton
The Grant family will be able to return to their home near Langton after an evacuation order was lifted on their property and two others. Last month the properties had been deemed unsafe due to high levels of hydrogen sulfide. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer
Rising levels of hydrogen sulfide gas have forced three Langton-area families from their homes.
When it comes to the Grant family, whose property includes the well from which the gas is leaking, this has meant a direct hit to their home-based business.
Ian and Kim Grant live at 1586 North Walsingham Road 10, and while they rent out their farmland, they run a wholesale home decor business 'Timbers' out of their barn.
Their fall orders have been put on hold since officials with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit along with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Environment called for an evacuation of both the property and anyone residing within 400 metres of it on August 18.
High levels of hydrogen sulfide can be flammable and cause irritation to the throat, nose, and eyes.
Following Tuesday's Norfolk Board of Health meeting in Simcoe, the health unit put an order in place to keep the families from their homes until further notice.
“The order has been issued to decrease or eliminate the potential health hazard from exposure to the gas. It will remain in place until such time as sample results indicate safe levels in the affected area,” said a media release from the health unit.
“The health unit has been advised that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is working to remedy the leak and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) continues to monitor the air at the property. The health unit will continue to work with the residents affected by the order and to liaise with the MNRF and MOECC in an effort to assist with the situation.”
The Grants say the situation didn't just crop up out of nowhere. They say a well was capped near Big Creek in early 2015, which led to a leak in their well. The well on their property isn't used and was put on the abandoned works program in 2010.
“Eventually the water and the smell disappeared from our farm but they said they would continue monitoring it and assess it and figure out the best way to deal with this,” Kim Grant explained after Tuesday's meeting. “We thought because the water table maybe dropped, that's why it wasn't leaking anymore, but the following year we would get whiffs of it in the Silver Hill area, so we thought it's probably popped up somewhere else.”
At the end of June the smell – one similar to rotten eggs – returned to their farm. Their water tested hydrogen sulfide levels between 6-7 parts per million, anywhere over five is considered an issue.
“We found out that they had just plugged a well up on McDowell Road that had flooded two acres of land with hydrogen sulfide water and other people's water wells in the area were affected,” Grant explained. “When they plugged that, that's what caused ours to go.”
Since that point, anything made of copper on the property – door handles, tractor keys - has turned blue. Situations like this aren't common in Norfolk, where the soil is so light that gases emanating from the earth rarely accumulate in sufficient concentrations to warrant attention.
“We're thinking if it's doing that to our equipment, what's it doing to our lungs?” Grant asked.
The Grants have been able to bunk with family in Brantford for the time being but say if they can't fill their business orders soon they'll be out half a year of pay.
That being the case, they're happy to know a solution will come sooner or later.
“We've been fighting this for two years. It's almost better it's gotten so bad because at least now they have to do something,” Grant explained. “Hopefully it doesn't happen to somebody else.”
“We appreciate our local health unit and Norfolk council,” said Ian Grant. “They've been great to deal with.”
As a precaution, the county has cancelled decoration day at the Sipprell, Riverside Cemetery located near the leak. The cemetery will be closed until further notice.