Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

What's That Smell? Mystery Odor Plagues 3 City Neighborhoods, Prompting Calls to Officials

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

What's That Smell? Mystery Odor Plagues 3 City Neighborhoods, Prompting Calls to Officials

Article excerpt

It was the smell that could not be identified.

Pittsburgh firefighters, Allegheny County Health Department officials and mobile units from Equitable Gas spent much of Friday morning trying to figure out what caused a natural gas odor in three city neighborhoods.

Equitable Gas spokesman Scott Waitlevertch said the calls began about 9:30 a.m. Friday from residents in the Strip District who smelled a strong natural gas odor in the air. Quickly after that, calls began coming from Lawrenceville then Shadyside, he said. By about 1 p.m. calls about the smells stopped.

The smell would dissipate from an area after a while and then move on to a new area, moving west to east across the city, which was strange, health department spokesman Guillermo Cole said, because the wind Friday morning was moving east to west.

But no matter who tested it or where or when, in every case, mobile air sampling detectors indicated it was not natural gas, Mr. Waitlevertch and Mr. Cole said.

"There is a gas odor out there similar to natural gas," Mr. Waitlevertch said Friday morning. "But we've cleared all of the areas. There is no issue, no leaks, we've discovered from any of our lines.

"We just can't tell what it is," he said.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire apparently doesn't know what it is, either. Though firefighters responded to calls about the smell as well, Chief Darryl Jones said he had no information to release about the incident.

Mr. Cole said in an email response to questions that officials "did some real-time indoor and outdoor air monitoring for hydrocarbons, which includes natural gas" and only found normal levels.

But health officials smelled the same odor that residents were experiencing, he said.

"There was a natural gas type odor in the air at the time and it dissipated by 10 a.m." in Lawrenceville, he said. …

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