Ottawa asks: “What’s that smell?!”

Photo: Sandra Cuffe, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: Sandra Cuffe, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Yesterday afternoon I was driving on Fisher Avenue near the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa when my car filled with a strange odor. I wondered if my radiator might be boiling over, because what else would smell that much so quickly? Part of me thought it kinda smelled like natural gas, but I dismissed that as improbable. After all, I was in a vehicle, driving down the middle of the road, not really near any source of such a thing. I went back to thinking it was my own car, but presently the smell passed and I stopped worrying about it.

Well, it turns out it was the smell associated with natural gas – and PLENTY of people, across Ottawa and even across the river, got to wonder and worry on Thursday. As reported by the Ottawa Citizen:

Buildings were evacuated and the fire department received more than 230 calls as an odour of rotten eggs spread through the air in Ottawa and into Gatineau Thursday afternoon.

The suspected source of the stink turned out to be pretty simple: Enbridge Gas Distribution was conducting a “controlled venting” as it prepared a new 19-kilometre, 60-centimetre pipeline in southwest Ottawa, and wind carried the stench of a natural gas additive farther than expected.

While “key stakeholders” near the venting were told about the possibility of smelly air, according to Enbridge, farther-flung regions were caught off-guard.

This CBC account includes some of the Tweets of evacuated places and frustrated people, including staff and students at Algonquin College, who had to evacuate as a safety precaution. Here’s the company’s response:

Enbridge Gas Distribution apologizes for the pervasive smell of natural gas on Thursday Feb. 6 in the Ottawa and Gatineau areas, and regrets the inconvenience this has caused residents and businesses.

Enbridge was venting natural gas as part of routine pipeline construction. Controlled venting of natural gas is a standard practice for pipeline construction, maintenance and repair. This work was being conducted to safely energize a new 19-kilometre, 24-inch natural gas pipeline in the City of Ottawa.

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3 Comments on “Ottawa asks: “What’s that smell?!””

  1. kate says:

    They forgot to say what else was released along with the natural gas. It is never just natural gas. The venting releases several VOC’s that cause health problems. Just because they call it natural gas does not mean its natural or clean.

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  2. Michael Greer says:

    19-kilometer, 24-inch……….WTF! This is how some clown missed Mars a few years back. How many hectares per fortnight will this apply to?

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  3. Mark says:

    Don’t you know, Michael, Canadians are bilingual. Friends of ours north of the border are fond of giving directions to their house as being “on your right, about 4 “k” from the corner and set back about 40 feet from the road.”

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