Source Of Gasoline Smell Unknown

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THROOP -- What started as a smell, ended up being a full-blown gasoline leak in one part of Lackawanna County.

Officials say somehow gasoline wound up in the sewer system in Throop

It's cleaned up now but how it happened is still a mystery.

Tony Amico got a late-night knock on his door from a firefighter. He was told to take a look at his sewer clean-out and when he took off the cap he smelled gasoline. His was one of a handful of houses on Dunmore Street with the same problem.

"My wife hardly got any sleep, I can sleep through anything. It was a long night, thankfully nothing worse happened,” said Amico.

Amico's block on Dunmore Street, and part of Sanderson Street were shut down overnight as more and more families found the smell of gasoline in their basements.  Somehow, gasoline had ended up in Throop's sewer system.

Borough officials say eight homes were evacuated and the residents taken to hotels.

At the PNC Bank in Throop the smell was so bad, fans were used to air out the building in the morning and the bank was closed as the clean-up started.

State environmental officials did tests at two gas stations in neighboring Dunmore to see if tanks there were the source of the smell.

D.E.P. officials say their tests on the gas stations aren't done yet, but they've all but ruled out that as a source of the gasoline leak, which leaves another possibility: that someone dumped gasoline into a storm drain. Officials have no idea how much could have ended up in the system.

"It's hard to tell, because the solvent will lay on top of the liquids and the vapors will actually suspend and go upstream. We chased it upstream almost to the end of the line,” said Robert Kalinowski, Throop road superintendent.

Borough road crews flushed the sewer system. One crew was clearing a blockage found during the process.

The gasoline eventually worked its way through the sewer system, getting rid of the smell but also making it tougher for the D.E.P. to find the source.

"It's definitely concerning especially knowing how combustible gas is, and the vapors from gasoline are, especially, to know they don't know where it comes from,” said Tom Bartkovsky of Throop.

"I hate to think someone poured it in there deliberately, but time will tell,” added Amico.

D.E.P. officials say they're pretty confident the gasoline came from someone who dumped it into a storm drain. They'll try to figure out where it was dumped but officials say they'll probably never know how much gas got into the system.