Several buildings were evacuated in Great Falls, Mont. Wednesday in response to emergency calls reporting a strong natural gas smell, according to a story published May 8 in the Great Falls Tribune.
Apparently employees for Energy West, had thrown away several boxes of expired scratch-n-sniff cards that were left from an educational campaign to teach consumers to correctly identify the smell of a gas leak.
The identification campaign was an apparent success.
The sulfur smell that followed the trash truck on its rounds after the boxes of scratch-and-sniff cards were simultaneously crushed by the truck’s trash compactor was so strong that it prompted several citizens to report the smell of leaking gas.
Emergency crews responded to the reports Wednesday morning and several buildings were evacuated, including the civic center.
Methyl mercaptan is a chemical that characteristically smells of sulfur, or rotten eggs. It is routinely added to natural gas and propane, which are normally odorless, in order that gas leaks can be detected.
The smell was traced to the trash truck and the boxes taken to the dump where they pose no threat to the environment.
The Great Falls Fire Marshall Dirk Johnson gave the all clear to reenter the evacuated buildings shortly after 9 a.m.