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Gas provider sued over chemical leak

Feb. 14, 2013 at 3:18 PM   |   Comments

MOBILE, Ala., Feb. 14 (UPI) -- A lawsuit against an Alabama natural gas provider alleges it may have leaked more than 6,000 pounds of mercaptan into a community's groundwater.

In deposition testimony released by a lawyer suing Mobile Gas, a company employee said the mercaptan -- a chemical added to natural gas to provide the telltale odor associated with a gas leak -- may have leaked from a storage tank beginning in 2008.

Mobile Gas officials have since confirmed a lightning strike in that year caused the storage tank to leak, but the lawsuit claims the company is unable to account for thousands of pounds of mercaptan pumped into that tank between January and June of that year.

In 2011, residents in the community of Eight Mile, near Mobile, began complaining of an overwhelming mercaptan odor and health problems, AL.com reported Thursday.

Mobile Gas officials at first maintained the odor had nothing to do with their operations and at the time did not mention the leak or the lightning strike, AL.com said.

Testing by state officials and research scientist determined the chemical was welling up in a spring and pond located just downhill from the Mobile Gas facility.

"They knew they were leaking mercaptan," said Rick Courtney, a Mobile attorney who is suing Mobile Gas on behalf of Eight Mile residents. "They keep acting like they didn't know what was happening. They knew."

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