News

Firefighters test gas levels at every home

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

JARVIS - 

Silver Hill isn’t the only community in the local area with a natural gas problem on its hands.

Last week – as Norfolk officials were fretting over a hydrogen sulphide leak southeast of Langton – the Haldimand County Fire Department was probing unusually high methane readings in downtown Jarvis.

Natural gas emissions in the Jarvis area are a well-known hazard with a long history. More than 100 years ago, Haldimand was dotted with gas derricks and was the major source of natural gas for homes, businesses and industries in the Hamilton area.

Buildings and barns in the Jarvis area have occasionally exploded and caught fire due to subterranean gas emissions. Haldimand’s gassy legacy is a known quantity and most every property in Jarvis monitors for it.

A natural gas explosion in Jarvis in 1991 prompted the former City of Nanticoke to declare an emergency and evacuate an area near the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 6. Venting pipes with sensors were later installed in this part of town. It was here that higher-than-normal concentrations of methane were detected Monday, Aug. 21.

“We took a proactive approach and called the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forests, the Ministry of the Environment and the Fire Marshal to get more advanced equipment in to monitor,” Haldimand Fire Chief Jason Gallagher said Wednesday in an email.

“One business was closed as we had minimal readings in the business, which were not hazardous as this business has its own gas-detection system which was functioning and not in alarm mode.

“The business was re-opened within two hours of the initial closure.”

Haldimand County also drew up a pamphlet that was circulated to all homes and businesses in Jarvis. Haldimand firefighters performed manual gas readings at every home in Jarvis and answered any questions. All readings came back negative.

The county is working with local plumbing and heating contractors to provide in-home gas detectors to any Jarvis resident who needs one.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation, which has been the practice of the fire department for years,” Gallagher said. “Having said that, we are assessing the need for more permanent monitoring systems. There was never an emergency declared, nor was there a need to declare. It was a pro-active approach to ensure the public’s safety and have the proper government agencies involved.”

Six homes on North Walsingham Road 10 in Silver Hill have been served with evacuation orders due to higher than acceptable hydrogen sulphide readings at two gas wells in the neighbourhood.

A section of the concession road about a kilometre long has been barricaded and is off-limits to all vehicular traffic. Tuesday, Norfolk council hired the firm GHD to install sophisticated detection equipment in the affected zone for ongoing monitoring.

Like methane, hydrogen sulphide is a flammable, foul-smelling gas associated with natural gas deposits. Both are hazardous in high concentrations because they displace oxygen. Anyone breathing air thick with methane or hydrogen sulphide can die of asphyxiation as a result.

Because of its sulphur content, hydrogen sulphide gas readily corrodes and degrades many metals.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com