Mystery odor prompts investigation in Lower Saucon Twp.

Posted: 12:18 AM EST Feb 20, 2014

The Lower Saucon council is set to hire an independent environmental investigator to sniff out the source of a mystery odor along Applebutter Road that has elicited numerous complaints.

On February 1, a township resident reported smelling a poignant odor to the Bethlehem police department. Thirteen other odor complaints have also been filed this year for the same area along Steel City and Applebutter Road.

Initial speculation at the board’s prior meeting implicated the IESI Bethlehem Landfill as the potential source of the smell, but councilwoman Priscilla deLeon claims that it is instead originating from the Bethlehem Renewable Energy facility.

"The landfill is getting blamed for this but most of the smell is coming from BRE," said deLeon at this Wednesday’s council meeting.

She also claimed that following a follow-up inquiry by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection the BRE facility registered high levels of methane gas.

The process is complicated further by the fact that Pennsylvania townships do not typically receive air quality reports.

“Two of the three waste storage lids were left open,” deLeon said. “Apparently there was a high methane level.”

The levels however were not high enough to merit a violation, according to council vice president, Thomas Maxfield, who argued that they could not yet say with certainty where the stench originated from.

“Methane gas is odorless,” he said. “I think we have several possible sources. We have no idea what is going on at this point.”

While deLeon continued to insist that the odor stemmed from the renewable energy facility, both agreed that a detailed investigation was needed by an environmental specialist.

“Blame whoever you want,” said Maxfield. “Where is an odor on Applebutter Road that needs to be investigated.”

The Lower Saucon council approved a motion 4-0 to hire an independent environmental investigator to pinpoint the origin.

They also recognized the importance of informing their community of the potential dangers of such issues as well as how to properly respond to them.

“We need to educate our residents and the people passing through our township,” said deLeon. “Residents should immediately call 911 for assistance.”

In response, the board will be uploading the Department of Environmental Protection’s recommendations for odor related complaints onto their website.