Rotten egg or gas smell spreads through southern NJ counties
EAST GREENWICH — The smell that made its way around much of South Jersey is still in the process of being treated and processed at a truck stop
The Gloucester County 911 Communications Center received hundreds of calls just after 3 p.m. complaining of a rotten egg smell associated with natural gas, according to Gloucester County Emergency Management. One of the calls came from the TA Travel Center on Berkeley Road in East Greenwich just off Route 295.
Meanwhile, police in several area towns including Gloucester Township Runnemede and West Deptford posted alerts about the smell on their social media.
Police and firefighters determined just before 3:30 p.m. that the tanker was venting 7,000 gallons of a chemical called lubrizol (zinc alkyldithiophosphate) that may cause eye/skin irritation when one comes in contact with it. It is used as a lubricant with heavy machinery.
Like natural gas, the chemical is odorless and the odor is added.
Shelter-in-place as odor spreads
According to Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen, the smell traveled 50 miles into Camden and Burlington counties.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection responded to the travel center and the company sent a trailer to offload the chemical. An alert from the county advised residents to stay indoors and limit outdoor activities at this time.
A shelter-in-place advisory was issued by the county Office of Emergency Management late Wednesday night for East Greenwich, Paulsboro, Gibbstown and the areas across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania after a large gas release from the trailer. It was lifted by 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
Air quality tests show no health hazard present but the smell was still in the air Thursday morning, according to Keashen.
Venting is expected at a certain temperature
East Greenwich Township Police Chief Matthew Brenner said the venting is exactly what the tanker is supposed to do when a certain temperature is reached.
"When we reach a certain temperature on this specific vessel with this chemical it will create a purge, or expelling. This chemical gives off a rotten egg smell. And when it gives off this odor with the prevailing wind we're getting a lot of odor that's carrying a long distance," Brenner said.
New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said that winds at the closest observation station of the NJ Weather Network in West Deptford have been relatively light during the past 24 hours with a top gust of 11 mph.
"That actually would lead to higher concentrations of the smell traveling from the incident site. 'Plume dispersion' favors moderate winds over powerful gusts that would stir up the air," Zarrow said.
"The wind direction has been all over the place, primarily shifting between southwesterly, westerly, and northwesterly. But there was a brief period of southerly and northerly winds in there overnight, likely due to nearby thunderstorms," Zarrow said.