The nose is key to natural gas safety

columbia gasYour individual sense of smell is important to remaining safe around natural gas. In its natural state, natural gas is colorless and odorless. Mercaptan is added to Columbia Gas of Virginia’s natural gas distribution system to give it a distinctive smell that is similar to rotten eggs.

“We add an odorant that makes natural gas stink like rotten eggs as part of our commitment to public safety,” said Phil Wilson Vice President and GM Operations for Columbia Gas of Virginia. “If we added a scent similar to a perfume smell, no one would pay attention or call us.”


Three Ways to Recognize a Possible Natural Gas Leak

Your senses of smell, sight and hearing are critical in recognizing and identifying a possible natural gas leak:

  • Smell – The “rotten eggs” odor is used as an early safety warning detection notification of a potential hazard.
  • Look – Bubbling water or dirt blowing from the ground can indicate a release of natural gas from an underground pipeline.
  • Listen – If you hear a hissing, blowing, or roaring sound that could indicate a potential hazard.


 What to Do If You Smell Rotten Eggs (Natural Gas)

  • Immediately evacuate the area and from a safe location, call 911 and Columbia Gas of Virginia at 1-800-544-5606.
  • Warn others to stay away from the area.
  • Leave windows and doors in their current position.
  • Avoid open flames or anything that could spark ignition – including cell phones, lights, garage doors, door bells, or other power equipment.
  • Do not attempt to operate a pipeline valve or try to correct the leak. Leave it to the professionals.
  • When emergency personnel arrive explain the situation to them.
  • At no charge, Columbia Gas of Virginia technicians will immediately respond, evaluate the odor, make the natural gas facilities safe and make appropriate repairs.

If you would like to know more about natural gas safety go to:


About Columbia Gas of Virginia

Columbia Gas of Virginia delivers safe, reliable and clean natural gas to over 260,000 customers in portions of Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, suburban Richmond, Central Virginia, Shenandoah Valley, Lynchburg region and Western Virginia. With headquarters in Chesterfield County, the company is one of the 7 energy distribution companies of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) serving 3.8 million natural gas and electric customers. Always call 811 before you dig and Dig with CARE. Learn more at

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