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Officials think truck may have been behind strong odor in Kittanning

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 12:02 a.m.
Bill Shirley
Emergency workers from Kittanning Hose Co. 1 and employees from Peoples Gas investigate the odor of a gas near the intersection of Mulberry and North Jefferson streets in Kittanning, Tuesday February 5, 2013. Bill Shirley | For The Leader Times

Authorities are uncertain what caused a strong odor of natural gas in the downtown Kittanning area on Tuesday afternoon, although a leaking propane truck may be to blame.

Reports of the smell began pouring into Armstrong County 911 a little before 1 p.m. in the area of the Kittanning Citizens Bridge and Market Street with some accounts describing the odor at its strongest near Tarrtown Road on the opposite side of the Allegheny River. Fire departments were dispatched to several locations and Peoples Natural Gas sent a team to investigate six reports of a possible leak, but nothing was found.

Public Safety Director Randy Brozenick said he believes the odor may not have been related to natural gas.

“I think it was a propane truck that went through town,” he said.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Armstrong County Deputy Sheriff Frank Shumaker stopped a heavy haul tow truck that was pulling a propane truck from West Kittanning through downtown onto Clearfield Pike in Rayburn Township.

“I followed the tow truck from around the courthouse up along (Clearfield Pike) and spoke with the driver at the intersection of Route 85 and Route 28/66,” said Shumaker. “He pulled over into the lot (near the) Kiddieland Bridge, but you really couldn't smell anything.”

Shumaker said Rayburn Fire Department responded to the scene but didn't discover any leaks in the truck.

“There was nobody cited,” he said. “The fellow driving the tow truck went on his way, I believe toward the New Bethlehem area.”

Although there's no evidence that particular truck was the source of the odor, Peoples Natural Gas spokesperson Barry Kukovich said the company believes it came from a truck of some kind.

“Our suspicion is that it was probably a truck hauling propane through town,” said Kukovich. “If it was, it would be the second time something like this has happened this year already. When it happened in Pittsburgh early in January, you could literally track the route that truck traveled just from the smell.”

Kukovich also said weather conditions in Kittanning at the time of the incident could have exacerbated the problem.

“You had winds coming from the southwest at just about four miles per hour and 86 percent humidity,” he said. “With that much humidity and not much wind, it's not going to disperse the smell of gas if it's there.”

While the source of the odor may never be known, Kukovich and Brozenick both said there's no cause for continued concern.

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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