Odor causes people to take notice

EAST LIVERPOOL – A strong natural gas odor reported late Thursday afternoon in several areas of the city turned out to be from a company off-loading a chemical near the river.

Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Kreefer said last night the department responded about 5:30 to several reports of the gas-like odor in the area along Webber Way, West Eighth and West Ninth streets.

Columbia Gas was called by the fire department and sent three trucks of representatives to investigate, according to Kreefer.

What they found, he said, was workers at one of the tank farms along the riverfront off-loading a chemical he identified as styrene, which he said sometimes gives off the odor of mercaptan.

Since natural gas has no detectable odor, mercaptan is a substance often put into natural gas so leaks can be detected.

Atmospheric conditions caused the odor from the styrene to lie on the ground instead of dissipating, Kreefer explained.

The fire department stayed on the scene until Columbia Gas arrived to investigate, Kreefer reported.

According to the website of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, mercaptan occurs naturally in the environment but health concerns such as changes in color vision, tiredness, an intoxicated feeling, slowed reactions, problems with concentration and balance could arise if the substance were found at levels 1,000 times higher than naturally occur in the environment.