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Chemical leak at Derry gas well spreads odor for miles

Jacob Tierney
| Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, 8:15 a.m.

A chemical leak at a Derry natural gas well has been stopped, according to Westmoreland County 911, but it created an odor that can be smelled for miles.

A mercaptan tank operated by Canonsburg-based XPR Resources began leaking at around 2 a.m. Wednesday at a well near Bergman Road, dispatchers said.

Mercaptan is a pungent-smelling chemical. Tiny amounts of it are added to natural gas so that it can be smelled easily in case of a leak. No gas leaked Tuesday morning, only mercaptan, according to dispatchers.

Emergency radio broadcasts described a natural-gas odor that spread miles from the leak, toward Latrobe.

The chemical is harmless, but it will take some time for the smell to dissipate, according to the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety.

There are several wells near Bergman Road in Derry. It is unclear which had the leak.

XPR Resources was expected to release more information about the incident, according to the department of public safety.

Mercaptan is non-toxic, naturally occurring substance that is always present in the human body. But inhaling a very large amount can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract, along with headaches and dizziness, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

It is unknown how much leaked from the Derry well site.

Further details were not immediately available.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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