BUTLER TOWNSHIP — Butler Township officials hope to have a conclusive answer today on what caused an odor at the Miller Lane Walmart on Thursday. That odor forced the store to be evacuated and closed for several hours and prompted a response by the regional Hazardous Materials Response Team (HAZMAT).
Fire Chief Dan Alig said the source of the odor has been narrowed to a pair of possible sources.
“We found some cleaning chemicals on a shelf that had spilled and mixed together and thought that was the source at first,” said Alig.
After cleaning the spill and ventilating the room, the odor persisted, however.
“An hour or two later we were still getting an odor from that room,” said Alig.
Further investigation found a second possible cause in a vat that keeps used cooking oil heated. Alig said it appeared an element had burned out and had burned some insulation.
“Once we turned that off, the odor started getting better,” he said.
Alig said that all readings by the HAZMAT team determined that staff and customers of the store were not in danger. Investigators will be in the store again on Friday to try to determine which of the two potential issues caused the odor.
The store was evacuated shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday morning due to the odor and remained closed until mid-afternoon.
Fire crews from Butler Township and Dayton as well as the HAZMAT team were seen entering the store in protective gear.
Doors of the building were open with employees standing near them. Auto repair bay doors were also open, but had yellow chains across them preventing entry by customers.
A Walmart employee met cars as they pulled into the parking lot to inform customers the store was closed.
Susan Bruggeman was a customer at the store and left this comment on the Vandalia Drummer News Facebook page.
“I was there at 8 a.m. and it smelled horrible inside,” she wrote. “Made my eyes water and the cashier has COPD and it was hard for her to breathe!”
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.