Natural gas pipeline work leads to Richmond Grade School evacuation, dozens of calls

Three homes also reported natural gas odors

A natural gas meter.

Work on a natural gas transmission pipeline in the Richmond area led to about a dozen calls reporting possible gas leaks as well as the evacuation of Richmond Grade School, a Nicor Gas spokesperson said.

As part of the work, an increased amount of mercaptan – the substance added to odorless natural gas to make it smell like rotten eggs – was used, and that’s what Richmond residents are smelling, Nicor Gas spokesperson Jennifer Golz said.

Mercaptan is not harmful and will naturally dissipate, she said.

Nicor Gas has received about a dozen calls in connection with the mercaptan release, Golz said. The Richmond Township Fire Protection District had received about 13 by about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, the agency said in an update.

Fire units checked each home with gas detection meters and found no immediate emergency, according to the update. Nicor was notified for all.

Some of the calls the fire department responded to have resulted in repairs, Deputy Chief Eric Schwind said. That includes at Richmond Grade School.

Repairs there are expected to be completed by Tuesday evening so school can resume Wednesday, Principal Michelle Smith said in an alert on the district’s website.

The Richmond Township Fire Protection District responded at 11:56 a.m. Tuesday to the school at 5815 Broadway, where school officials reported a smell of natural gas at the rear of the building near the boiler room, the fire district said in a news release.

The school was evacuated before firefighters’ arrival, and crews checked the building using metering equipment, which detected trace levels of natural gas in the boiler room and surrounding maintenance rooms, according to the release.

Crews isolated and ventilated the affected area until the arrival of Nicor Gas, which was requested to the scene by fire personnel and Nippersink School District 2.

As fire crews were clearing the grade school, the fire department received three more calls for natural gas, all in homes, according to the release. All three were investigated, and Nicor was requested to follow up at two of the three homes.

In one of the homes, a possible leak in a supply to the hot water tank was found, according to the release. The other two had no natural gas detected.

No one reported any injuries during any of the calls, the department said. Schwind said more calls had come in since the release.

He said he didn’t know if Nicor’s work on the transmission pipeline could have led to the issues at the school or homes, but he noted that a fluctuation in pressure can cause gas to be released.

The Richmond Township Fire Protection District issued a reminder in light of the incidents for all homes and businesses to have working carbon monoxide detectors as required by state law. The department also recommends an annual service for heating and air conditioning systems.

Have a Question about this article?