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What’s that smell?

Updated: Sep 16, 2021


Wafts of industrial odors emanating from Neville Island got so bad in the early hours of Sept. 2 that many area residents placed 911 calls to report what they perceived as an imminent health threat.

In addition to official emergency calls, more than 150 residents from as far away as Downton Pittsburgh filed reports using Carnegie Mellon University’s Smell PGH app within a 36-hour period, with the majority alluding to “chemical” and “burning rubber” smells.

Emails sent between Neville Chemical’s vice president and health department officials obtained by Gazette 2.0 through Right To Know requests suggest the smell was caused by a “heat poly valve that allowed volatile material to get into 2-4 kettle[s] causing the release.”

The email thread does not determine the source of the odor or clarify whether it may have posed any level of public health threat.

“We continue to gather information, and plan to have an incident review meeting later this week to make sure we understand what happened and that all actions are reviewed and discussed prior to making a final determination of the cause,” Vice President Daniel Kokoski’s Sept. 7 email continued Gazette 2.0 is awaiting more information in response to additional record requests.

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