An additive administered to natural gas for safety issues caused several calls to Nicor and local emergency agencies June 8.
Representatives for those agencies said that there was no danger, but people were concerned about a odor of gas in their homes or businesses in the Iroquois County area that day.
Ken Baier of the Watseka Fire Department, said earlier that day the department had responded to several calls.
Baier said the calls started in the evening of June 7 and carried in to the day on June 8.
He said he became involved when there were several calls, particularly from businesses on the east side of town.
“Nicor had put mercaptan, a concentrate which is what makes the smell — natural gas doesn’t have a smell so the mercaptan is actually the smell you smell when there’s a leak. They put a concentrate of it into the system in Onarga a day or two, I was told, and it made it’s way over here.
“What was taking place was all these places had very, very minute leaks, leaks that you wouldn’t even detect normally. It’s not an issue, not really a safety concern. With such a heavy concentration of this product in there it smelled like there was big gas leak on the properties.
“Some of the properties we investigated even with having our equipment, like Nicor has also, we weren’t finding anything, nothing to even be remotely concerned about. Some of the stuff we weren’t even to pick up even on our monitors. It was just there was such a heavy concentration of the product that it super smells. That’s what created this whole issue.
“It had nothing to do with the gas influx,” he said. “That’s what we thought it was at first maybe, but it had nothing to do with that. It was just a product put int he system and made it’s way here. Places that had maybe a pinhole leak in their system, we discovered. It got mitigated very quickly. There was nothing to be concerned about, or a danger,” Baier said.
Baier said Nicor got more calls than the fire department did, and that calls were not just in the Watseka area, but in the surrounding area.
He said Nicor met the fire department at each site and went over what was done. “Every location was cleared by our department and Nicor at the same time,” he said.
Jennifer Golz, manager, PR & Media Relations, Corporate Communications, said, “The safety of our community is our highest priority, and we take all necessary precautions to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of the natural gas that our customers deserve.
“While in the process of introducing natural gas into a distribution pipeline in the Watseka area, an increased amount of the odorant mercaptan was detected.
“Natural gas is naturally odorless. As a safety measure for detection, mercaptan is added, which gives natural gas an odor often associated with rotten eggs. As a result, some residents in the area noticed the smell. This odor will naturally dissipate and poses no harm to the community.
“If residents suspect a natural gas leak they are strongly encouraged to call 888.Nicor.4U. For more information on how to detect natural gas leaks visit nicorgas.com/safety,” she said.