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Clearing the air in Richland

Clearing the air in Richland

RICHLAND, Wash. — Richland Fire Department is fielding calls about a smell in the south part of town.

It has people worried there's a gas leak.

Richland Fire Department Chief Tom Huntington told Action News his crew is aware of the smell, but because hoses and tanks sometimes leak, they don't want folks to get complacent,

"If people smell gas we certainly want to have a look and make sure everything is okay."

He said this isn't the first time the smell has been reported,

"We're in the neighborhood of a couple-dozen calls for the entire year."

But this week did get worse.

The odor actually floated north to Van Giesen Street, a fair distance from the areas around Aaron Drive, George Washington and Wellsian Way.

He said Monday's smell actually made people sick,

"We had two or three patients that our paramedics checked out. There was no adverse physical danger."

The chief said their equipment has yet to detect flammable or explosive levels of anything dangerous, and they've traced the odor to the Wastewater Treatment and Asphalt Plants in an industrial zone upwind.

Richland Wastewater Treatment Manager John Bykonen said the wastewater treatment process creates methane gas, which smells different than natural gas.

He said the methane they create is used to heat their boilers or burned off.

Bykonen said he's worked in the field 42 years and plants receive odor complaints but they're mostly about the smell from the liquid tanks, which don't smell like methane gas either.

He said the Wastewater Treatment Plant wants to be a good neighbor,

"We're concerned too, we want to be able to assure residents that if it is us, we'll deal with it."

Both Bykonen and Huntington said they think the problem traces back to the asphalt plant next door.

Action News reached out to Inland Asphalt and learned Thursday afternoon that neighbors will hopefully be able to breath a bit easier.

KC Klosterman works with the company who owns Inland Asphalt, he said the sulfuric smell similar to natural gas is from the binding liquid they use to make paving asphalt last longer.

He said the company will now use a different product and the company won't switch back until the odor is taken care of.

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