Rotten eggs in Versailles, PA

warning: hydrogen sulfideWhat would you rather have lurking underneath your hometown: highly explosive methane, or highly toxic hydrogen sulfide?

Tough decision. How about both?

In Versailles, PA, that's exactly the situation they've been left with. Old, poorly sealed oil wells and an abandoned coal mine have been leaking methane for decades, but since at least 2006 there's been scientific evidence of hydrogen sulfide, a gas that smells like rotten eggs and is dangerous to human health. To date nothing has been done about the problem, because no one in the town has known.

A two-year study by the US Department of Energy was intended to reveal the direct source of the methane problems, but researchers found more than they expected hiding in the small town. Some residents had apparently complained of a rotten egg smell for years, without knowing they were being exposed to hydrogen sulfide. In small amounts the gas can cause breathing problems and eye irritation; exposure to high concentrations can lead to death.

The team conducting the study says they assumed the town government knew about the problem, but town officials say they were never informed. That means that it's been two years since there's been a documented problem in Versailles, and nothing has been done. Town officials are calling for the release of the report, which was expected on August 31st -- hopefully the report will contain not just the problem, but also the solution. Residents of Versailles have waited long enough. Lots more in the AP Exclusive story.

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