JOHN DAY – People who notice fumes seeping into their homes or offices in southwest John Day are asked to contact John Day Dispatch if they have not already talked to city officials.
Thomas Nadermann, an industrial hygienist with Vancouver, Wash.-based Sterling Industries, said new reports will help officials map the reach of the problem.
He also said people who experience the problem should air out their homes, as the fumes will dissipate with ventilation.
Nadermann said tests indicate the odor is caused by some lightweight compounds commonly used in solvents. He said the source was not gasoline or a petroleum-based fuel.
He also said the fumes, while unpleasant, do not appear to be a health problem.
“We don’t believe it is particularly harmful to people,” he said. “Is it an irritant? Absolutely.”
Nadermann and Michael Montgomery, a building contractor who specializes in hazard mitigation, were in John Day on Wednesday to investigate the problem, along with John Day Police Chief Richard Gray and Fire Chief Ron Smith.
They canvassed an area north of the Soil and Water Conservation District building, where the problem was first detected back in March.
In the past week or so, the substance causing the odor seemed to be migrating northward.
Gray said they found the problem extended to 10 homes, the Grant County Library, and the Canyon Creek Apartments.
Gray said the city also received a report of an odor in the Canyon City Community Hall, well south of the area of focus. He said he planned to check it out for similarities to the other odor reports.
Nadermann theorized that the substance causing the fumes could be moving through the groundwater, which flows toward the river.
The precise source is not known, but a solvent dumped into the ground in that area would sink easily through loose soils and mine tailings to the groundwater, he said.
Nadermann plans to return to John Day next week to do some groundwater testing.
He also has been in touch with the state Department of Environmental Quality about the situation.
Meanwhile, Nadermann and Gray advised residents to air out their homes if they detect the odor.
“Don’t sit inside and let the fumes build up,” Gray said.
Nadermann said these types of substances tend to dissipate quickly with enough ventilation.
To report any new incidences of the problem, call John Day Dispatch office, 541-575-0030.