A strong, unpleasant odor described as rotted eggs or burnt garlic filled the air last week following an equipment cleaning at Sunoco.
Anne DeStefano was unexpectedly awakened at 2 a.m. last Thursday, but not from a loud bang or somebody snoring. The resident of Broad and Pollock streets can blame her disturbed sleep on her sense of smell.
“I was going to throw up,” she said of the unexpected stench that wafted into her home.
“It smelled like bad, rotten food,” friend Tina Nardini, of 15th and Pollock streets, who became aware of the odor at about 5:30 a.m., added.
Neither found out the source until later that morning.
“Everyone thought they had a gas leak,” DeStefano said of conferring with her neighbors.
The smell originated at the Sunoco Refinery following an equipment cleaning prior to a scheduled maintenance project, Sunoco spokesman Thomas Golembeski said.
“It appears during the washing process some oil got on the roof of a large storage tank and odor from the roof of the tank drifted into the neighborhood on the wind,” he said.
About a dozen calls from residents who determined the odor came from the refinery at 3144 W. Passyunk Ave. were made to Sunoco at about 9:15 p.m. Jan. 13.
Sunoco looked into the complaints and began monitoring the air inside and outside its facility.
“The readings all along told us that the situation was safe there,” Golembeski said. “It was generally a nuisance — unpleasant, but not harmful.”
Joanne S. was unaware of the stench, since she slept through it, but the next morning her coworkers complained about it, she said.
“Then again, a nuclear bomb wouldn’t wake me up,” the 17th-Street-and-Oregon-Avenue resident added.
However, she does get severe migraines from various smells and awoke Thursday with a painful headache. She does not believe Sunoco’s claim the emission was harmless.
“I don’t believe them because people lie,” she said. “They don’t want us to worry. If so many people smelled it — no, I can’t believe it.”
The odor reached parts of Southwest and South Philly, the areas the refinery straddles, and even South Jersey.
The Girard Estate Neighbors Association is seeking more information from Sunoco, the civic group’s President Vince Ricchiuti, who received complaints of a rotten egg or burnt garlic smell, said.
“That odor did smell kind of foul, but at this point, we don’t know what to be concerned about,” the resident of 21st and Shunk streets said, noting the siren system, which would sound if a hazardous material were released by the refinery, did not go off.
The Fire Department was notified and on the scene prior to determining if Sunoco was the cause, Golembeski said. But Sunoco never directly notified the Fire Department of the fumes coming from the refinery last week, Philadelphia Fire Department Executive Chief Daniel A. Williams said. Many calls were received last Wednesday evening, but they were from across South Philadelphia, which led to eight to 10 fire companies scouring the communities where the calls originated to determine the source.
Sunoco Inc. has announced its plans Monday to exit the refining business, which includes looking for buyers for its South Philly, 3144 W. Passyunk Ave., and Marcus Hook refineries.
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