For about a year, area residents maintain, an almost unbearable smell has penetrated their homes. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management ordered the company to address the problem.
Mobile Gas responded by erecting a tent over a natural spring contaminated with mercaptan, a chemical added to odorless natural gas in order to alert customers to gas leaks. A contraption vacuums the vapors through a granular-activated carbon filter remove the mercaptan.
“According to ADEM, what we are doing is working,” said Kesshia Davis, a spokeswoman for Mobile Gas. “We do understand that the residents are still frustrated. But we are doing everything that we can. We have a crew out there every day.”
Scott Hughes, a spokesman for ADEM, said two hydrogeologists have evaluated the area in the morning and late in the afternoon and confirmed that the smell has dissipated. He said the company also has reported a steep decline in complaints.
“At that point in time, we felt like the system was working properly and was capturing the odor from the beaver pond,” he said.
Hughes said geologists this week monitored a consultant hired by Mobile Gas to collect soil and water samples in an attempt to determine how widespread the contamination is.
Parker said the odor is noticeably worse at night. She urged ADEM monitors to come to her neighborhood after 5 p.m.
“If people would just come out there at night, they’d see,” she said.
Rick Courtney, a lawyer representing about 50 plaintiffs in a lawsuit, said the sunlight tends to break down the mercaptan, making the odor less powerful during the day.
“I can assure you -– I’ve talked to a lot of my clients -– it hasn’t fixed anything,” he said.
Three of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit –- Fellowship Church, pastor O’Neal Porter and his wife, Sabrina Porter -– withdrew from the litigation today. Parker said a for-sale sign sits in front of the church, which has shut its doors.
“They just had personal issues that they had to get out of the suit,” Courtney said. “It didn’t have anything to do with the merits.”