Fire officials confirm gas-like odor came from PES refinery; incident under control

KYW Staff
November 14, 2019 - 4:32 pm

UPDATED: Nov. 15, 8 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Fire Department said in a tweet that after investigating reports of people smelling an odor throughout various sections of the city and confirming the source of the odor as the former Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery, "the release has stopped and the incident has been placed under control."

Capt. Derek Bowmer, a fire department spokesman, said fire personnel and the Hazardous Materials Task Force responded Thursday afternoon to the since-shuttered refinery on the 3000 block of Penrose Avenue in an attempt to track several reports of odors detected.

Bowmer said crews detected noxious fumes coming from the PES site and spoke with personnel on-site.

The remaining work crews who were still maintaining the refinery reported they were engaged in a chemical cleaning process of equipment on the property.

Bowmer said hazmat crews were gathering information on what the chemicals were and directed workers to cease the operation.

Hazmat crews conducted air monitoring tests and did not detect hydrogen fluoride or other potentially volatile substances. 

The area affected is primarily in South Philadelphia, but reports of the odor also came from two schools in North Philadelphia and portions of West Philadelphia. Philadelphia Gas Works was also contacted to assist.

A few weeks ago, a similar situation left Delco residents baffled, as a gasoline-like odor spread throughout Delaware counties and neighboring towns. The source of the odor was never discovered.

On Friday, Delaware County Emergency Services Director Timothy Boyce said it is unknown if the odors have any relation.

Related: Delaware County Emergency Services investigating reports of strong gasoline-like odor

“The reports seem similar, but (Delaware County Emergency Services) does not have the capability to determine. I am reaching out to the DEP to see where they are with the investigation and to confirm they are aware of the similarities,” he said.


KYW Newsradio's Tim Jimenez and Mark Abrams contributed to this report.