Natural gas odor permeates New York and Jersey Cities

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Monday, January 8, 2007

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A strong odor of natural gas permeated through parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey City early this morning. Authorities assert that there is no cause for alarm and assure the air quality, though smelly, is safe enough to breathe. New York City's Health Department, the Coast Guard, and Con Ed are still on the scene.

In a press conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that a small gas leak at Bleeker St. and Sixth Av. "could not account for a smell so pervasive throughout the city". PATH trains were temporarily suspended from Hoboken, New Jersey, to the 33rd St. terminus, and an MTA control tower at West 4th St. was also temporarily shut down.

"Sensors do not show any high concentration of natural gas that would cause concern" continued Bloomberg. "We want to take our time and make sure we don't get the wrong information. We cannot speculate, but these are the facts: the smell is there, we don't know the source, and it doesn't appear to be dangerous."

Some buildings in Midtown Manhattan were evacuated as a safety precaution, and HVAC systems in the area have been brought back online. Jersey City EMTs report that seven people have been taken to hospital, but it is unclear if it is a direct result of mercaptanline inhalation.

WINS-AM reporter Juliett Poppa has been reporting along 34th St., commenting that the odor was most noticeable around Fifth Av., but has now dissipated. Radio announcer Lee Harris added that the odor was noticeable even in their Broadway and 57th St. studios. During an interview on air, a Con Ed spokesman said that no gas leak has been found.

"We've had reports as far north as 96th St. on the West Side and 130th on the East" said one NYC 311 operator (This was during this journalist's report of a gas smell at 205th Street.)

Natural gas supplied for domestic and commercial use is odorless. Mercaptan is added to give natural gas its distinctive smell as an aid to leak detection.

Sources

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