ELYRIA – City officials are investigating what caused a mysterious odor to seep from sewer lines into homes in two separate Elyria neighborhoods on Monday.
Samples taken from the sewer will be tested to determine what substance caused the odor that smelled like lacquer or paint thinner, according to Elyria Wastewater Pollution Control Superintendent Terry Korzan.
“It's very unusual,” Korzan said. “If we get one of these a year in Elyria, maybe two, that's a lot. But to have two in one night, that's very unusual.”
The Elyria Fire Department responded to Morgan Avenue around 5 p.m. after a resident called Columbia Gas, which determined the odor was not associated with natural gas lines. Firefighters flushed sewer lines in the area.
Around 6 p.m., several residents reported a similar smell in their homes about 2 miles away on Princeton Avenue. Firefighters checked homes in the area and flushed lines, said Assistant Fire Chief Joe Pronesti.
Korzan said the smell appeared to be coming from the storm sewer on Morgan Avenue, which is not treated. It flows into the Black River from the sanitary sewer on Princeton Avenue. It was unclear if the two incidents were connected, officials said.
Korzan suspects someone poured a chemical into the sewer. Testing should take a few days, he said.
“Any type of chemical can cause an environmental situation in the river,” Korzan said. “Any sewer is a confined space, so any time you have the potential for a flammable liquid in a sewer, whether a storm sewer or sanitary sewer, there's always the possibility that bad things can happen.”
He said even a small amount can cause a widespread odor.
Authorities said the odor did not appear to be related to air discovered in natural gas lines less than two weeks ago in the Eastern Heights neighborhood, where Princeton Avenue is located. The discovery prompted Columbia Gas to shut off natural gas service to more than 2,000 customers for several days while repairs were made.
“It was a scare last night because there were fire trucks everywhere and gas (workers), but they were right on the ball, the fire department was right on the ball,” Joanne Koviak said, Princeton Avenue resident.
Korzan said the incident is a reminder for residents to properly dispose of chemicals at the Lorain County Solid Waste Management District Collection Center in Elyria.