ELYRIA — City services and fire officials were baffled Monday night after residents reported suspicious chemical odors in two different areas of the city.
The smell was described as resembling that of gasoline, lacquer or paint thinner — liquids that do not belong in the sanitary sewers, officials said.
The incident occurred less than two weeks after air got into natural gas lines in the Eastern Heights neighborhood Nov. 29, which caused Columbia Gas to turn off gas to 2,100 customers as a safety precaution, so officials said they were being extra cautious.
One of the calls came in early Monday evening from residents on Morgan Avenue, who reported an odor they believed was natural gas, Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said. She stressed that the smell was not natural gas, but more akin to gasoline or another petroleum product.
Columbia Gas workers went out, recognized the smell was not natural gas and called the Elyria Fire Department. Firefighters were flushing the sanitary sewers by pumping water into manholes there when a second call came in about an odor in the area of Princeton and Park avenues, Assistant Fire Chief Joe Pronesti said.
Columbia Gas workers again eliminated natural gas as the cause of the odor, and firefighters responded to the area — nearly 2 miles southeast of Morgan Avenue — where they also flushed the sanitary sewers with water, Pronesti said.
The odor could be detected inside several residences, so firefighters went door to door in the 300 block of Princeton Avenue and took air samples, he said.
Pronesti called the situation “odd” and a first in his 30-year career: Calls for similar odors, possibly of petroleum products or lacquer, in unconnected sewers 2 miles apart.
Morgan Avenue runs roughly parallel to John F. Kennedy Parkway/state Route 113 on the city’s north end, while Princeton and Park avenues are in the residential Eastern Heights neighborhood.
“It was the same smell, which is odd,” Siwierka said. “Very odd to have it in two parts of town.”
Samples were taken from the sewers and will be tested by wastewater officials to determine the cause, she said.
Elyria police were planning to conduct extra patrols in both areas Monday night, Pronesti said.
“We’re being extra cautious,” he said. “It was a very strong, very pungent odor.”
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