Owners Of More Than 100 Evacuated Montco Homes Allowed To Return

Owners Of More Than 100 Evacuated Montco Homes Allowed To Return

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Residents of about 150 Montgomery County homes are being allowed to return as their houses are tested.

That's after a voluntary evacuation overnight due to a mysterious odor.

FOX 29's Bruce Gordon reported live Monday from Skippack that gasoline in groundwater was determined to be the culprit in the condo evacuations.

The gasoline produced a foul odor that has been deemed not life-threatening, even in three homes with the highest readings.

It was a nervous night in the Fairlawn Court development, but there are some answers now as to why three homes in this neighborhood – the three end homes along the stretch of condos – reported a strong, foul chemical odor in their basement last night. Many other homes tested positive for some kind of "volatile organic compound."

Environmental and hazmat crews spent much of Monday swarming Matt and Courtney Loughlin's home searching for the cause of the foul odor emanating from the water in their basement sump pump.

By late afternoon, test results were back. And there was some cause for relief.

"The substance that was found in the sump pump pits was gasoline," said Skippack Fire Co. Chief Haydn Marriott. "The immediate solution right now is we're going to flush out those sump pits with water and ventilate the houses so we can get the residents back in there."

It's still not clear how the gasoline got into the groundwater. But we do know the three most heavily-impacted homes sit low in the neighborhood.

The Logans called 9-1-1 Sunday night when they noticed the foul odor. And when crews returned Monday afternoon, the smell was even worse.

Matt Loughlin said it smelled like "chemicals, just a strong chemical smell," adding that as soon as crews walked in Sunday night they said, "Yeah there's a reading."

"I don't know what to think," said Courtney Loughlin.

The couple has children ages 2, 4 and 6.

"It could be anything," the mother said. "It could just be something that just smells really bad and isn't, or it could be something that is really bad. I mean, we have no idea. I honestly don't know what to feel at this point."

The odor was detected to one degree or another in dozens of homes all within the water of their sump pumps. The entire neighborhood was evacuated Sunday night as a precaution.

Dean Martella's wife is 8-months-pregnant. He said, "They asked my wife to leave immediate, and then I kind of swept through and got stuff," noting that they'd been out since 7:30 p.m.

As crews spent the day retesting homes, taking special note of those with earlier high readings, homeowners waited for the all-clear to return.

Rich and Kelly Chesney had their two young children and two cats packed in their SUV.

"We're hot," Kelly Chesney said. "We are dealing with our children that are bored out of their minds, can't go in the house, and pets that aren't allowed back in either."

Fire trucks were on hand Monday night and began the process of flushing out those sump pumps with water in the three most heavily-impacted homes.

The neighborhood will be monitored for some time to come. But fire officials made clear we may never know why or how that gasoline got into the groundwater in the first place, Gordon reported.

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