Muskegon, MI – Mary Ann Stark smelled natural gas, but didn’t think much of it.
Stark had been outside earlier in the day when she smelled it first but it was a windy day in May, so she thought the odor was probably coming from somewhere else. So she dismissed it. After arriving to deliver a bunk bed to her home in Muskegon, Gorman’s Furniture driver Zebulun Jones immediately knew something was wrong.
“It was a lot of wind and we could still smell it pretty strongly, that indicated to me that there was a lot coming out at one time,” he said.
The sulfuric, rotten egg odor that signals a natural gas leak isn’t an ordinary component of the carbon-hydrogen compound. Because of the potential danger associated with natural gas leaks, suppliers add the noxious scent to natural gas as a warning.
The pair walked around the multiple-tenant condominium building but neither could find the source of the gas. Stark said when she had previously had a leak in her basement, she called DTE Energy without reservation. This time she was certain the leak wasn’t a serious concern, concluding that the harmful gasses must have been coming from somewhere up wind.
“Zeb was insistent, he didn’t just say I needed to call, he kept saying it when he saw I was hesitant,” Stark said. “I might have called just to pacify him a bit. Unfortunately, I might have just let it build up.”
Because of Jones’ persistence, Stark finally broke down and called DTE. A representative came out and found a faulty heater had been pumping natural gas into the walls of their multi-unit building. He told Stark that because it was hidden in a wall, the leak was fairly serious.
If she waited any longer to turn the gas off, there could have been tragic consequences.
Natural gas has become a widespread energy source because it’s highly combustible, which means that it can produce large amounts of heat when you burn small amounts. Consequently, a natural gas leak can increase the risk of fire and explosion since it spreads quickly and combusts easily. An electrical spark or fire source can set this off if you have a leak in your house. Inhaling high concentrations can also lead to asphyxia and possibly death.
The DTE representative was able to solve the leak that day, and Stark attributes the fact she is still alive to Jones’ stubbornness.
“I see a lot of things driving but nothing that I could impact like this,” Jones said.