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Stinky mystery may be solved for Old Town Pocatello

By By Chris Cole
Published On: Jun 26 2013 11:32:45 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 27 2013 12:47:55 PM CDT

The City of Pocatello is saying a natural gas line that's over 70 years old may be to blame.

POCATELLO, Idaho -

After several weeks, the mystery of a smell coming from one Old Town Pocatello building may finally be solved.

So what is causing such a stink?

The city of Pocatello is saying a natural gas line that's over 70 years old may be to blame.

It was used to pump the gas downtown to power the old lamps before there was electricity.

Now it's stirring up quite the stink.

When Kerry Harmon first found this building for Muse Clothing Boutique, it was a wonderful experience.

"It had amazing character," Harmon said, who is also the landlord of the apartments above the building.

She said it had great potential, but for the past few weeks she's been dealing with an awful aroma.

"We found out that our low-explosive levels were very high - 60 percent,” she said. “So the fire department, the gas department, the police just started calling in a little bit of everybody, trying to pinpoint what this crazy gas was that was in my basement.”

It took experts coming from as far as Seattle to run numerous tests, dig dozens of holes and once that was all said and done, they knew what it wasn't: not sewage, and not methane.

"We spent quite a bit of time assessing other potentials as to what was the cause,” said Pocatello Fire Chief David Gates. “By Tuesday midday we felt pretty confident that this was coming from the street."

The city then pulled out maps dating back to 1936 and found that under this intersection lies the potential source of the offensive odor.

"Apparently there's a lot of porous material right under the street in front of my building,” Harmon said. “So it's just a nice little avenue for it to flow into my really old building."

So the solution is to find what reeks by digging up the road.

"This might turn out that somebody's dumped something into the soil somewhere else and it's kind of come along the pipe chase," said Harmon. "That we won't know until we dig down."

Harmon also said she's very grateful for the city of Pocatello's help in dealing with this stinky situation.

"Once they figured out that this issue existed, I was just blown away at how fast things happened," she said.

At one point the entire block was evacuated, as there was concern the gas could possibly ignite.

But the city says the gas is so heavy, it's remaining down in the basement.  They allowed the tenants back and business to resume.

Hopefully when the city hits the road Thursday, so will the smell.

The city of Pocatello began work on the pipe Thursday morning, shutting down the block of Main Street from Wyeth to Hayden streets.

Officials also hope to be done Thursday, but they also want to make sure they take precautions. They still aren't 100 percent sure what they're dealing with, so they don't want to put an exact time on when the situation will be resolved.

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