Officials evacuated about 200 people and took 31 to hospitals after what authorities described as a "mystery odor" plagued four businesses and a day care center in a Northampton County business park.
Hanover Township Manager John Finnigan said the initial call came in at 11:49 a.m Monday for what businesses reported was an indoor gas odor. It led to the evacuation of all employees at the building at 90 S. Commerce Way.
The building not far from Route 512 houses Creative Kids Club day care center, Travel Impressions, Concern Care, CB Courier Expedite Services LLC and Digital Press Inc.
Crowds of employees waited until about 2:45 p.m. in the parking lot before they got the all-clear to return inside the building. A busload of children from the daycare center were kept warm on a school bus provided by the Bethlehem Area School District.
Thirty-one people complained of nausea, vomiting and dizziness and were taken to area hospitals for treatment, officials said. Anyone who asked to be evaluated was treated at a triage unit set up at the scene, Finnigan said.
Finnigan said what led to the more than two-hour evacuation remains unclear. Air levels were deemed safe and there were no signs of a natural gas leak, he said.
Firefighters from various agencies, including Bethlehem and Hanover townships, went through the building and could be seen on rooftops checking the heating, ventilation and air conditioning units.
Authorities from utility company UGI found a small gas leak at a meter in back of the building, but that wasn't causing the fumes being reported inside, Finnigan said
"Everything was cleared in the sweep," he said, noting meters used to detect gases didn't return abnormal readings. "It's a mystery."
The next step, Finnigan said, is for the property owner to bring in an environmental team as a secondary precaution.
Employees huddled together to stay warm, with some lounging on folding chairs during the ordeal. An employee of one of the businesses said he smelled a strong stench just minutes before everyone was asked to clear the building.
Parents arriving at Creative Kids Club day care said they grew worrisome when they saw ambulances, police and fire trucks.
30 sent to hospital as business park, day care evacuated
"I went in and just grabbed my son," said parent Karen Otrupchak, of Sellerville, Bucks County, who happened to be walking on her lunch break and saw the commotion. "I'm concerned."
Otrupchak said she was told by day care staff to wait outside with her 2-year-old until the facility got the all-clear. She said parents wanting to have their children evaluated by emergency workers were headed to the nearby Best Western hotel.
Megan Menewell, of Bangor, stopped by to feed her 8-month-old son on her lunch break and was told to take the infant to the hotel, she said.
"I'm just waiting to find out what's going on," she said.
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