Dec. 15 (UPI) -- North Carolina environmental officials are investigating an offensive odor in multiple neighborhoods that residents compared to cat urine.
Brad Newland, the Wilmington regional office's supervisor for the N.C. Division of Air Quality, confirmed the agency has received several complaints about a cat urine-like odor in the Carolina Heights and Ardmore neighborhoods of Wilmington.
Newland said the odor is believed to be a result of a facility or a mixture of facilities dealing with industrial chemicals, but the exact source is difficult to pinpoint.
"I know that the catty odors have impacted downtown from time to time, and in my personal experience, the odor seems to vary. Sometimes it smells like pure cat urine to me, and sometimes it smells similar but different," Newland told the Star News.
He said an investigation was conducted when residents reported a particularly strong odor on the weekend of Nov. 25.
Newland said previous probes into cat urine odors in Wilmington have focused on a facility run by Fortron. The company, jointly owned by Celanese's Ticona and Japan-based Kureha Corp, manufactures a heat-resistant polymer known as polyphenylene sulfide.
"Through the years, they've done a lot of things in response to these odor complaints to try to address them," Newland said, "they're continuing to do that, and we're continuing to encourage them to do that."
Residents said the cat urine smell has been a periodic problem for years, and locals have also pointed fingers at the Invista plant and the International Paper plant.
Newland said there is a long list of suspects.
"It's quite possible that all these different facilities are contributing, but it's impossible to say," Newland said.
He encouraged residents to quickly notify officials when they detect stronger-than-usual smells.
"If you're experiencing odors," Newland said, "we need to be notified in a timely manner because it's difficult to go back in time and ascertain how bad it was and what the cause may have been."