Analysis reveals "weathered gasoline" created "gas-like" odor in Kenosha; source unknown

KENOSHA -- Officials with the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday, March 29th provided an update on an investigation into a "gas-like" odor in downtown Kenosha. It has been determined that the material causing the odor is "weathered gasoline," but the source of the gasoline remains under investigation.

On March 3rd, officials evacuated three people from businesses a block-and-a-half away, and even shut down the Kenosha County Safety Building to the public and non-essential personnel. At the time, there was concern of a gas leak from an abandoned sewer line. Flushing the system fixed the problem, but when the flushing stopped, the problem returned.

On March 8th, there was another call to emergency crews regarding a gas-like odor coming from the downtown Kenosha area. Police blocked off roads and even closed a gas station as they searched for the source of the smell.

On March 12th, extensive sampling of the sewer lines in the problem area was conducted by the Kenosha Water Utility in cooperation with We Energies and their consultant, Natural Resource Technology.

Briefly, the analysis revealed that the material causing the vapor is “weathered gasoline."

Sampling from a vacant manufactured gas plant property was found to be chemically and physically different from the material creating the problem in the sewer line.  Therefore, facts indicate that the manufactured gas residue can be ruled out.

DNR research indicated that “gasoline” had been detected underground in the problem area some years ago.

During pre-road construction borings dating back to 2001, high levels of gasoline had been detected.  Any actions taken in response to those past findings are, as of yet, unknown.  It is very possible that this gasoline has been in the ground for numerous years.

Analysis of the “weathered gasoline” also shows that it is post leaded-gasoline, sheriff's officials said.

This indicates it was produced sometime after the mid-1970s.

Again -- the source of this contaminant creating this "gas-like" odor it still unknown.

However, current information points to the likelihood of a past leaking underground storage tank.  This could have been from an old gas station long since removed, or an old existing underground storage tank unknown to us.

In the coming days the Kenosha Water Utility will be developing a strategy to systematically clear material from the affected sewer lines.  This cannot guarantee the contaminant will not leach back into the sewer.  Continued testing and historic property evaluation is planned.

In the meantime, vapors may still occasionally be detected outside in this specific area.

Should any property owners in the affected area notice vapors within their home or basement, they are asked to contact the Kenosha Fire Department.

If you detect any vapors within your home at an intensity that causes you immediate concern, do not hesitate to call 911.