Mysterious Gas Odor Returns to Rehoboth-Dewey Area

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For the second time since May, officials in the Rehoboth-Dewey area investigated reports of a gas odor this past Saturday morning. The calls came from Delaware Avenue, Bellevue Street, Ocean Drive, Cape Henlopen State Park, Canal Pointe, the Henlopen condo, among other locations, between 11 a.m. and noon.

The obvious candidate would be a tanker off the coast or in the Delaware Bay. According to the Rehoboth DEOS weather station, from 10 a.m. to noon, wind direction was from the northeast or north-northeast at about 5.5 m.p.h. This could favor the theory that the odor originated from a vessel north of Lewes, perhaps in the Big Stone Anchorage which is popular among tankers.

Although not a perfect source of ship-tracking data, looking at tankers that transmitted Automatic Identification System (AIS) info on Saturday in this area reveals only four tankers — all crude oil tankers (probably not the likely source) — the Nordic CrossUnity VentureEagle Toledo and Sea Garnet.

Capt. Douglas Messeck of the DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police said on Saturday that he had checked from the Indian River Inlet to Rehoboth while one of his colleagues checked from Lewes around noon and “we found no odors nor any shipping traffic in those areas.”

Petty Officer Ronald Hodges, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, also said that he had not received any reports of gas odors in this area on Saturday. Officials had also checked with 9-1-1 call centers in Cape May County and Cumberland County in New Jersey, neither of which reported any gas odor complaints.

A similar round of gas odor complaints was reported on June 23 in Ocean City and also in early May in the Rehoboth-Dewey area. While a nearby vessel remains the obvious culprit, pinning it down is challenging!