Mobile County

HUD to study lingering effects of 2008 chemical leak in Eight Mile

EIGHT MILE, Ala. (WKRG) - The company that mans a gas facility in Eight Mile says it's corrected a chemical leak that residents claim is still making them sick a decade later. 

But Friday morning in a press conference at Highpoint Baptist Church, local and state officials announced a federally-funded study to look into the issue. 

Officials say they've received about 4,500 complaints from people living or working in the affected neighborhood in the past decade. 

To be clear, it's not a gas leak but a chemical leak. 

Spire, the company that mans the site, says mercaptan has leaked into the groundwater, contaminating it. You also may be able to smell it in the air from time to time. 

The company claims the situation has been rectified, but residents disagree. 

"On July 4th of this year, my children and other children played outside, shot firecrackers. We attended the firework show at Highpoint Park. The minute we got home, he began to have a nosebleed. On that day, the mercaptan odor inundated our community," said Carletta Davis of 'We Matter Eight Mile.'

A public report available online from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management says weekly checks of the site are conducted. 

It says mercaptan odor has been detected about 92 percent of the time during those checks. The public report was last updated in April of this year. 

The newly-approved study will go through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It'll take anywhere from six months to two years to be completed. 

"We want the community to know that we are committed to ensuring that the people who have been affected by this devastating situation will receive justice and we are here to support them," said Teresa Bettis from the Center for Fair Housing. 

Mercaptan is a chemical that's put in natural gases for safety purposes. It smells like rotten eggs to alert you that harmful substances may be in the air. 

So it's not uncommon for someone to smell it and make the assumption it's a gas leak. In this case, Spire claims it's just mercaptan that's leaked into the Eight Mile neighborhood. 

While the chemical may be there to help you, it actually can harm you as well. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to it can cause eye, nose and throat irritation. It can also cause headaches, nausea and respiratory issues. 

In Friday's press conference, officials also announced two public meetings next week. One on Tuesday, July 17 and the other on Thursday, July 19.

Both will be at 7:00 pm at Highpoint Baptist Church. 

If you've had issues related to mercaptan in Eight Mile, you're encouraged to attend one of the meetings and sign a written complaint. 

For the report from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, click here. 

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