Mysterious sewer odor wafts over county

Oct. 25, 2000
Dozens of residents in Paterson and Totowa held their noses and a mall in Wayne was evacuated as a giant cloud of sewer gas swept over the area Oct 17, authorities said.


October 18, 2000 (The Record )—Dozens of residents in Paterson and Totowa held their noses and a mall in Wayne was evacuated as a giant cloud of sewer gas swept over the area Oct 17, authorities said.

Police and firefighters in those towns searched for the source of the odor but late said there were no clues as to its origin.

"It was bad at Paterson Avenue and Liberty Street," said Frank Malzone, director of emergency management for Paterson, who joined city and county officials in searching for the odor's source. "A lot of people were holding their noses." Officials considered closing School 5, where children were involved in afterschool activities. They closed the windows instead, he said.

Paterson firefighters were dispatched to that area shortly after 5 p.m. "Then the phones were ringing off the hook," said Deputy Fire Chief Dennis Diguglielmo.

Public Service Electric and Gas workers tested for natural gas and the readings were negative, he said.

Paterson officials then began getting calls about the odor from Totowa.

Totowa police Lt. Dean Rattino said the calls began at 5:29 p.m., initially from Boyle Avenue.

"It was everywhere in Totowa," he said. "I could smell it outside headquarters."

Shortly after 6 p.m., Wayne police received reports of a gas odor at the Wayne Towne Center on Willowbrook Boulevard, next door to the Willowbrook Mall.

Township firefighters, using hand-held meters, detected dangerous levels of methane gas and ordered the mall evacuated, sending almost 1,000 employees and customers scurrying to the parking lot, said Wayne police Sgt. Steven Giardino.

The odor dissipated an hour later, and the employees and customers were allowed back inside the mall, said Giardino.

The cloud of smell apparently worked it way eastward from Paterson to Wayne, Totowa, and Little Falls, said Giardino.

"It is not natural gas. It is sewer gas, and we have no control over that," said Jeanne Pieratelli, a spokeswoman for PSE&G.. "Our people tested, and it is definitely sewer gas. What is happening is it is a traveling cloud across Passaic County." Staff Writer Justo Bautista's e-mail address is bautista(at)

© 2000 The Record, Northern New Jersey via Bell&Howell Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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