Emergency officials said that the odor of natural gas along the Route 40 corridor Friday morning posed no danger to public safety, following a spate of 911 calls.
Callers to the Harford County Emergency Operations Center began reporting the odor of gas in the Havre de Grace area at approximately 7 a.m., according to the Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Association. By 10 a.m., more than 35 calls had been received, according to a statement from Harford County government.
The cause of the odor was traced back to an overnight release of gas following a spill from a broken pipe on a storage tank at an oil refinery in Paulsboro, New Jersey. Paulsboro is located in southern New Jersey, approximately 20 miles northeast of Wilmingron.
According to the fire and EMS association, atmospheric conditions kept the gas close to the surface in sufficient quantities to remain detectable by smell.
Locations affected by the release of the gas included Aberdeen, Abingdon, Churchville, and other areas along the Route 40 corridor, the association said.
The calls prompted an 8:40 a.m. robo-call from Harford County Emergency Manager Rick Ayers, the text of which follows:
Good morning this is emergency manager Rick Ayers with an important message. Harford County has received several 911 calls reporting gas leaks along the Route 40 corridor. At this time, we believe the source of the gas leak smell is from a plant in New Jersey. At this time, there has been no gas leak source identified in Harford County. New Castle County, Delaware and Cecil County fire departments have also been running numerous calls for service. Thank you, and be safe.
The Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Association said additional calls to the 911 center about the odor will be handled as “non-emergency” calls to “reduce the risk to fire service personnel and other motorists.
According to the statement from Harford County government, shifting winds were expected to dissipate the odor during the afternoon hours Friday.
The full release from Harford County Government follows:
(Bel Air, MD) – – As of 10:00 AM this morning, the Harford County Emergency Operations Center had received 35 calls for service related to an odor of gas. The calls are all in the southern half of the county in an area stretching from Havre de Grace to the Fallston and Joppa areas. The Harford County Volunteer Fire Service is responding to all calls.
The cause of the odor of gas is attributed to an oil refinery in Paulsboro, New Jersey, which experienced a spill as the result of a broken pipe from one of their storage tanks last night. The spill was contained by a secondary containment system, and measures have been taken to mitigate the impacts of the spill and to capture the remaining product.
According to a press release from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, “Petroleum products have a low odor threshold, meaning they can be smelled readily even at very low levels that do not cause serious health risks.” In addition, “Air monitoring also indicates there should be no health effects from the odors caused by the spill,” the press release continued.
The odor associated with this event poses no significant threat to public health and safety, and as winds are expected to shift, the odor should be leaving the area and dissipating during the day.
The Harford County Emergency Operations Center will be monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates to the public as warranted.