SKIPPACK, Pa. (AP) -- Authorities say an odor that prompted a
voluntary evacuation of about 100 homes in suburban Philadelphia is due
to an organic compound coming from the sump pumps in the basements.
The Montgomery County hazardous response team, state Department of
Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency are
working to identify the "volatile organic compound" involved, the
county Department of Public Safety said in a statement Monday.
Officials said a strong order was reported at a home in the Skippack
Township neighborhood at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday. The township fire
company responded with meters that "went into alarm" in the basement of
the residence, and more homes were tested and found to have levels of
the organic compound as well, the public safety department said.
Fire Chief Haydn Marriott had earlier told WPVI-TV in Philadelphia
that crews testing the homes had gotten high readings of a poisonous gas
called hydrogen cyanide. But he said the crews didn't actually think
the odor in the homes was from hydrogen cyanide, but some other
An emergency shelter was set up at the local elementary school, and
the American Red Cross of southeastern Pennsylvania said 10 people from
four families were put up for the night. Some residents went to a
hospital as a precaution and were released.
Residents are being asked to contact the township and have their
homes tested for the presence of the compound before returning home.
Volatile organic compounds are found in products such as gasoline,
paints and paint thinners and solvents used for dry cleaning and metal
degreasing, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. They can find their
way into ground water from spills or leaking storage tanks or in
stormwater runoff from roads and parking lots. The compounds are usually
used in liquid form and are called volatile because many can readily