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Central Florida Residents Report Foul-Smelling Leaks Near Sabal Trail Pipeline

A map of the Sabal Trail Pipeline route from Alabama to Central Florida.
A map of the Sabal Trail Pipeline route from Alabama to Central Florida.

Residents near a stretch of the Sabal Trail Pipeline in Central Florida are reporting the sulfur-like smell of a gas leak. But the company behind the utility says the emissions are from an odorant leak, not from natural gas.

A map of the Sabal Trail Pipeline route from Alabama to Central Florida.
Credit Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC. / https://infopost.spectraenergy.com/InfoPost/STTHome.asp?Pipe=STT

Natural gas itself doesn’t have a smell, which is why utilities add odorants to tip off residents. Enbridge Energy, the company behind the Sabal Trail Pipeline, says that’s what Marion County residents have been smelling, not natural gas. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipsin is with the Sierra Club of Florida. 

“As the first leak was reported, people were driving by. They had their cars fill with fumes. They stopped to open up all their doors on the first leak in July. On the second leak it was residents in the neighborhood that would actually go outside and smell gas in the air,” she said.

A company technician responded to 911 calls in July and August, and fixed the leak. According to incident reports from the Marion County Fire Rescue, the technician said "this was a new system and they are still learning." Lisa A. Connolly of Sabal Trail Management, LLC responded to concerns raised by water conservation activists in a letter saying, "following notification of an odorant smell, Sabal Trail operations personnel made an adjustment to a fitting at one of the odorant tanks and no further action is required," she wrote. "There was no natural gas leak."

But Merrillee Malwitz-Jipsin with the Sierra Club of Florida is worried about future leaks.

“It would be great if there could be some sort of public service explaining what it is and what an explosion looks like. And what is an incineration zone. And how far is that reaching. It shouldn’t just be on the public to do their research," Malwitz-Jipsin said.

Malwitz-Jipsin is encouraging first responders and residents to rethink how to handle potential pipeline issues. The Florida stretch of the pipeline runs 268 miles from Hamilton to Polk County.

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