Investigators determined de-icing fluid was to blame for a smell that sparked complaints in Calgary’s northeast over the weekend.
Gavin Young / Postmedia
Calgarians were turning up their noses over the weekend, taking to social media and calling the fire department in droves over fetid fumes in the city’s northeast.The nasty smell permeating much of the area wasn’t from a gas leak or raw sewage or even a landfill. Instead, the gaseous, rank aroma was coming from a facility at the Calgary International Airport that sorts, treats and transports recycled de-icing fluid. More than 90 calls were made to the Calgary Fire Department about the smell from Thursday to Sunday, prompting responders to investigate each call and run tests on air quality in the area. “It was a bit taxing on our resources… but thankfully we have been able to determine a cause,” Calgary Fire battalion chief Bruce Barrs said.Barrs added his best guess is the 60 mm of rain that fell on the city from Thursday onwards caused the smell to waft and worsen, resulting in 78 calls on Friday alone.“We used our gas detection instruments to assess for any flammable substance, natural gas and H2S,” Carol Henke with the Calgary Fire Department said. “None of these hazards were found during our numerous responses and subsequent investigations.”Henke added the source was found to be “rotting organic material in a retention pond near the airport.”The de-icing fluid used at the airport is made up of water and glycol, an organic compound also used in anti-freeze formulations. There are two ponds that deal with glycol at the airport — a north pond that directs the flow to the city’s water treatment plant and a south pond that is treated on site.I contacted @FlyYYC 4 weeks ago about the smell, they said the same thing as this story, but failed to advise about any health effects of inhaling those gases. It would be nice to know! H2S is a toxin. https://t.co/3OpHksfc0N— Brian Maksymetz (@Refmaksy) June 24, 2019The airport has been recycling used glycol, recovered from tarmacs, since opening its own treatment and recycling facility for the compound in September 2017.According to the Team YYC website, the airport works with a group of airlines as part of the Calgary Glycol Facility Consortium to “recover up to 30 per cent of the glycol sprayed (for de-icing) using specialized vacuum trucks.”Airport spokesperson Reid Fiest said the airport also received smell-related calls over the weekend and confirmed weather was the cause.“With the significant rains, glycol materials in the stormwater pipes were released,” Fiest said. “We actively monitor the stormwater ponds and we will continue to monitor the situation.”email@example.comOn Twitter: @oliviacondon