Over Labor Day weekend, Loudoun County Fire and Rescue members responded to 267 gas-related incidents. Residents in North Sterling, South Cascades, Ashburn and Leesburg complained of strong gas smells through their homes and reported possible leaks.
Washington Gas spokesperson Jan Davis said the strong smells did not come from gas leaks, but an equipment malfunction at a Washington Gas conditioning facility in Virginia.
"Residents weren’t smelling gas. They were smelling mercaptan," she said.
Natural gas doesn’t have an odor, so mercaptan is added so it can be detected if there’s a leak or malfunction. Mercaptan is a harmless additive and only a small amount is needed when added to natural gas.
"We added too much mercaptan, so the smell was really strong," Davis said. "People thought they had a gas leak because they could smell the mercaptan."
FIRE AND RESCUE and Washington Gas worked together to make sure all residents who made calls were serviced to ensure there were no serious problems.
Fire and Rescue spokesperson Mary Maguire said workers were inundated with calls, averaging five complaints an hour.
Out of more than 200 calls, Davis said there were only one or two serious gas leaks, which she said was fairly "common."
Over a normal weekend, Washington Gas receives about 30 calls about possible gas links and only one or two of them are serious.