November 30, 2012- Town of Elma- Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard reports that the Sheriff’s Office investigated a release of a non-toxic chemical this morning in the Town of Elma that caused some anxious moments throughout several towns in central Erie County.
The Sheriff’s Office received several calls starting at about 11:14 AM reporting the smell of natural gas in several locations in the Town of Elma. Sheriff’s deputies and volunteer firefighters from fire companies in the Town of Elma responded to the complaints, and although a strong odor was noticed, there was no evidence of any natural gas found.
It was determined that workers at a National Fuel pumping station in Elma had been transferring the chemical Mercaptan from one storage tank to another when a small amount leaked out.
Mercaptan is described as being a harmless, non-toxic chemical that is added to natural gas in order to detect leaks. The chemical smells like rotten eggs, and is extremely concentrated.
Reports of the smell were also received in the towns of Orchard Park and Hamburg, as far west as Route 5. The odor prompted short evacuations of several facilities until it was determined that there were no leaks; however no injuries or illnesses were reported.