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Industrial customer of Citizens Energy blamed for gas-like smell in central Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Throughout the north side of Indianapolis Tuesday morning and reaching up into Hamilton County for several hours, firefighters and police responded to complaints of a widespread offensive odor in the air.

“Well, you could smell in certain parts of the campus and not in others,” said Butler University Police Chief John Conley. “We started getting real concerned when we started getting complaints that the odor was real heavy inside some of our buildings.

“We were on the phone with the gas company, sought some advice from the gas company, and they advised that if it was that heavy in the building we should evacuate the buildings.”

Three buildings were evacuated for about an hour until maintenance crews could open windows to circulate fresh air through the offices and classrooms.

Citizens Energy later issued this statement:

Citizens is continuing to respond to calls of “odor in the air.” We now believe the odor was caused by an industrial customer that this morning released a chemical containing an odorant smelling similar to natural gas. The customer assures Citizens the issue has been resolved. If a customer would like to report a natural gas leak, please call Citizens at 317-924-3311.

Heritage-Crystal Clean, an environmental cleaning company, contributed to the odor.

IFD reported receiving more than 70 complaints and taking 40 runs.

Citizens Energy spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple said that while callers described the odor as that common to natural gas, it was not one of the energy company’s products or chemicals added to natural gas that was responsible for the smell.

Holsapple could not confirm the chemical that was released into the air and Heritage-Crystal Clean could not be reached for comment.

Carmel firefighters checked out more than 140 complaints of the odor, all of them north and east of the Rock Island Refinery where Marathon Oil Company processes product on West 86th Street.

A Marathon spokeswoman said that the company did not authorize a release of Mercaptan.

Our partners at the Indianapolis Star report the source of the leak was identified as Heritage Crystal Clean, a recycling center in Speedway.

Authorities said that while the odor may be offensive, it is not harmful and by noon the smell had dissipated.

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