Listen to Your Nose


Let’s talk onions for a moment. The smell of cooking onions is pleasant to me, but not for my husband. He detests the smell and won’t eat onions in anything! Each person perceives a scent, and what one person’s olfactory nerves tell his brain is pleasing, another person’s may perceive as unpleasant. Keep this in mind as we move forward.

Across the nation, gas utilities remind their customers that the odor of natural gas is similar to rotten eggs or sulfur, maybe a skunk or even a dead, decaying animal. You get the picture – most people perceive the smell of natural gas as bad. And while it smells bad to most, whatever scent you associate with it, that same scent should also trigger your brain to consider that it means there could be a gas leak nearby – even if you don’t think it smells like rotten eggs, and maybe even if you “like” it. That’s why we send customers a scratch and sniff with the odorant of natural gas in their paper bills. But even if they don’t get a hard copy bill in which we provide a mercaptan sample twice a year, they can just call and ask for one. We want our customers to recognize the smell, even if to them it smells like something other than rotten eggs.

Mercaptan is the chemical odorant that gas companies add to natural gas before distribution; because, in its natural state, natural gas has no odor; and, to most people, mercaptan smells really bad. The smell triggers you to find out why it’s there, when normally, the smell shouldn’t be there. You also may be able to hear a leak (from a hiss to a roar — depends on size of leak), and at times, a leak causes you to see other things such as dust, dirt or debris blowing in the air, water bubbling in a pond, or dead or dying vegetation for no apparent reason in the area near a leak or gas line break.

It’s important to identify what it smells like so the next time you smell it, you know that the smell could also point to a gas leak.

For more information on natural gas safety, click here.

By Connector, Karen Riggenbach Vaughn.

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