ORCHARD PARK (WKBW) It happened around noon Friday, when residents in a wide area of Southern Erie County started smelling what many thought was natural gas in the air, even though it turned out to be a false alarm.
National Fuel says work was completed at their East Aurora location that released an odorant into the air. This is the chemical that gives the colorless and odorless natural gas it's smell. So when the air in the surrounding towns started smelling like gas, there was widespread concern.
At Orchard Park Pediatrics, the entire office along with a neighboring bank were evacuated due to the smell and the fear of an explosion.
"For quite a while we were out in the cold, the patients were out in the cold, and we were scared. With all the stuff on the news with the gas leaks and explosions and things like that, we were very concerned for our patients and for ourselves. Luckily nothing happened, other than everybody got a little bit of cold," Dr. Kathleen Dyson said.
The Erie County Sheriff's Office says the odorant chemical is called mercaptan, and is non toxic and harmless.
National Fuel released this statement in regards to the smell of gas:
National Fuel is advising residents in East Aurora, Orchard Park, Hamburg, and Elma that work completed earlier today at an National Fuel service station in East Aurora released an odorant, similar to the smell of rotten eggs, and there is not a natural gas emergency. After extensive investigation, it was determined that there are no gas leaks but the prominent smell does remains in the area and due to prevailing winds, the smell has carried for miles from the original location.
For customer protection, National Fuel adds an odorant to give natural gas a distinctive smell so leaks can be more readily detected. Residents can be assured that there is not a natural gas situation in their neighborhood.
For area residents concerned about a legitimate gas leak, please contact National Fuel's emergency hotline at 1-800-444-3130.
National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation is a regulated utility and is one of the subsidiaries in the National Fuel Gas Company system. The utility provides natural gas service to approximately 725,000 customers in western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania.