Santa Ana : Gas Discharge Found to Be Smelly but Not Toxic

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Inspectors returned to Mobil Chemical Co. on Tuesday, but the verdict remained unchanged: The huge cloud of gas that spewed from the plant Sunday night and hung over parts of Santa Ana was very smelly but not dangerous.

“All the follow-up we’ve done indicates our initial evaluation was correct,” said Battalion Chief Wayne Bowman of the Fire Department. “It was not toxic, only an odor. But it was pretty strong--quite strong.”

Firefighters, called to the plant on South Birch Street about 8:50 p.m. Sunday, soon disbanded a command center that had been set up in case the leaking gas forced an evacuation of the area.


Six engine crews remained until 1:30 a.m., however, because there was a chance the tank from which the fumes were leaking might explode, Bowman said.

The large tank, used in the manufacture of polystyrene plastic, overheated due to an equipment malfunction, Bowman said. The overheating caused a discharge that continued for three hours until automatic equipment cooled the contents, he said.