Layton Gets National Guard Help To Investigate Petroleum-Like Fumes

Feb 27, 2019, 7:29 PM | Updated: 9:35 pm

LAYTON, Utah — The scene  outside Natalie Critchlow’s home Wednesday wasn’t quite what she expected. Members of a National Guard Civil Support Team, set up specialized equipment outside a manhole, and eventually lowered two men, dressed in hazmat type suits, into the hole.

“This concerns me now — I’m a little worried,” Critchlow said. “I think what’s most frustrating is they don’t know what it is.”

Critchlow says she and her husband first noticed an unusual odor a few weeks ago, but didn’t think much of it at the time.

“We had been painting, so we thought, ‘oh, maybe a paint smell,’ there’s lacquer, thinner, something crazy like that,” Critchlow explained.

But the smell eventually got worse, she said, “About a week ago, we finally got on our hands and knees, and were smelling and were like, ‘this is coming from somewhere, and it’s getting stronger,'”

Monday, Critchlow says some city employees came by asking if they’d noticed a smell. Flyers were also distributed to about a hundred homes, asking homeowners to call 911 if they notice the petroleum vapors in their homes.

“It’s not flammable, it’s not explosive,” Layton City Spokesman, Steve Garside said. “That being said though if anybody detects that odor in their home and they haven’t reported to us, we want them to contact us.”

With frustration growing among homeowners the Utah Department of Environmental Quality produced its most detailed accounting yet of what’s been done to pinpoint the cause:

  • On the day the smell was first reported, February 14th, firefighters responded with air monitoring on affected homes.
  • Within 5 days scientists were investigating underground storage tanks.
  • On February 21st the state had authorized the use of emergency funds to abate vapors in three houses.
  • 5 days after that (yesterday) Layton City circulated a public notice about the fumes, as two more homes were found to have odors and one yard was found to have gasoline contamination.
  • Today test results showed petroleum contamination in the storm water line from Gentile Street to Kays Creek.

Garside says the vapors were first noticed last year, when crews with the North Davis Sewer District were replacing one of their lines. He said the chemicals appear to be leftover from a decades-old spill or leak, however the exact cause is still being determined.

“This year, now that we’ve had a good, wet winter, the ground water has pushed some of that plume again this way,” Garside explained. “It has found it’s way into the storm drain system.”

Spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Donna Kemp-Spangler says they do not believe the chemicals have come in contact with drinking water. She also pointed out the smell isn’t a health-hazard, but can be an irritant for some people.

“Typically, from what I understand, it’s nausea and headaches, mostly headaches and things like that,” Kemp-Spangler said. “It’s certainly more of just a nuisance than it is more of an immediate health concern.”

Garside said the city hopes to get results from drinking water tests, and from samples the Civil Support Team collected sometime Thursday.

A couple of homeowners have been staying in hotels.

Critchlow is still in her home, though she has concerns. She says her husband recently became ill.

“But you know it’s February. We thought a cold, or flu or something,” Critchlow explained. “But I just picked up my daughter from school ten minutes ago, because she’s been having the same issue.”

Andrew Adams, KSL TV, contributed to this report.

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Layton Gets National Guard Help To Investigate Petroleum-Like Fumes