Written by Administrator
Saturday, 21 April 2012 14:41
by Caleb Stento
If you noticed a foul odor in the air last Wednesday, you aren’t alone. Many residents in the Ridgway area did. The olfactory senses of staff and guests at Orvis Hot Springs were particularly bombarded.
The stink was coming from Orvis neighbor, Amerigas. On Wednesday, an extraordinarily windy day, Amerigas chose to ‘purge’ a few of their old propane tanks. According to Cheryl Roberts, Ouray County Public Health Director, the purging process involves burning off propane from old tanks in order to make disposal a safer process.
Propane in its natural state is completely odorless. As a safety precaution, a chemical is added to give propane odor and to serve as a warning in case of leaks. Apparently, when a jet of burning propane is discharged into the open mountain air, it retains a good portion of this odor.
“The smell was pungent — not toxic,” Roberts said. Technically speaking, “no burning gas is completely non-toxic. It (Amerigas' purging) did not cause a health hazard but was a nuisance,” Roberts continued.
Roberts said that the Ridgway Fire Department came out and put a meter on it, but there were no dangerous levels.
Toxic or not, it doesn’t smell pleasant — at all. Staff at Orvis Hot Springs didn’t want to comment, but Roberts mentioned that a couple of customers had asked for their money back.
It probably wasn’t Amerigas' intent to annoy its neighbors. After speaking with Amerigas, Roberts related that they seem to want to work together to resolve any issues in a neighborly fashion.
“We are trying to figure out how to work together with Amerigas so it won’t be a nuisance," Roberts said. "So far there hasn’t been any additional burning.”
The county is trying to determine if it can require Amerigas to apply for a conditional use permit for future purging events.
It just so happened that the county declared Wednesday (the day purging occurred) a Red Flag Day, a day on which “All burning is highly discouraged.”