Firefighters monitor petrol vapour levels on Byron Street at Lennox Head yesterday.
Firefighters monitor petrol vapour levels on Byron Street at Lennox Head yesterday. Cathy Adams

Fears over fuel odour

CONCERNS have been raised about a possible petrol vapour leak which could enter the sewerage system at Lennox Head and become potentially explosive.

Yesterday a HAZMAT unit and three fire trucks – one from Ballina, one from Goonellabah and the Lennox Head Rural Fire Service – attended the scene in Byron Street.

They were called because Ballina Shire Council staff, who have been monitoring the fuel odour for months, took an unusual gas level reading.

The council's civil services group manager, John Truman, said the smell was a concern because it was near the council's sewage pump station.

Because sewer gas contains methane gas, there is a risk of an explosion if it mixes with the petrol vapour.

Mr Truman said they were still trying to identify the source of the petrol smell.

But he said the presence of HAZMAT and firefighters at the scene yesterday was only a precautionary measure.

“The council is trying to make sure, because the mixing of the gases ispotentially explosive, that nothing happens,” he said.

“We are still investigating the source – it's been going on for some time.

“It's proving difficult to find out where it's coming from.

“But the staff who have been monitoring the smell had an unusual gas reading and that triggered the decision to seek further advice from HAZMAT officers.”

The fuel odour was first identified by council staff conducting routine maintenance of the sewage pump station.

Up until now, the situation has been monitored by council staff, but yesterday specialist HAZMAT teams and firefighters were called in.

Ballina fire captain Dennis Henry said his teams had been measuring the gas levels.

“We took some readings out there,” he said.

“There has been a slight smellof fuel or something like that – we haven't been able to ascertain exactly what it might be. The council will now have to investigate further, but there is no risk to residents.

Mr Truman said the council would continue to monitor the situation in Byron Street. “The samples that have been taken will now be taken away to be tested,” he said.

Despite some speculation the smell is being caused by a leak in one of the fuel pumps at a nearby service station, Mr Truman said this could not be confirmed.

Staff at the service station said they had ‘no idea' what was going on and that they had received no information from the council or the fire brigade about the issue.

The service station continued to operate as normal during yesterday's tests by HAZMAT and fire brigade teams and the council.



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