AUGUSTA — A foul odor in the air affected a wide swath of central Maine on Friday.

But by the end of the day, officials were unable to locate the source of the smell, which had dissipated by mid-afternoon.

“The investigation into the source is ongoing but is not related to anything in our city,” officials with the Augusta Fire Department wrote on Facebook Friday morning.

Chief David Groder said at least three callers reported the mysterious smell, and the calls started coming in at about 4:30 a.m.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection said it had “not received any odor complaints” but did inquire about the smell and could not figure out where it came from.

“The DEP staff has made several inquiries this afternoon and cannot pinpoint the source of the odor,” David Madore, spokesperson for the agency, said in an email Friday afternoon.


Art True, director of Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency, said it appeared to be “traveling from North to South primarily following the Kennebec River.”

The odor smelled like rotten eggs, or the chemical that is added to natural gas to make it easier to detect.

“We believe that this is an odor we have had before and is being kept close to the ground due to the fog and temps,” True wrote in an email to municipal officials Friday morning.

Groder, who was on a fire call in Oakland when reached by a reporter in the morning, said he could smell the odor there, which is nearly 20 miles north of the capital city.

Facebook users reported experiencing the smell in Farmingdale, Chelsea, Randolph, Gardiner and Winthrop.

Fire officials in Waterville, Fairfield and Skowhegan reported not smelling the odor.


The Augusta Public Works Department said the smell was not from Hatch Hill, the city’s landfill.

Lesley Jones, the public works director, said she could confirm it did not come from the Augusta landfill because the flare, which burns methane produced by decomposing material at the landfill, and other equipment was working properly. When the flare and other equipment work properly, no odor escapes.

“It’s chemistry. So you take the methane molecule — the odor in the landfill, the gas — and you burn it under high heat, and it destroys the methane and produces heat and gas that are odorless,” Jones explained. “It’s the heat of the flare that destroys the methane. The heat changes the makeup of the molecule.”

The Augusta fire department advised anyone who suspects they may have a natural gas or propane leak to call at 207-626-2421, or 911 if it’s immediate.

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