Community Government Police

L. Saucon Police to Go on Odor Patrol in Steel City

Est. Read Time: 2 mins

All police are required to use their noses in the course of conducting investigations.

For example, an officer who stops someone for a traffic violation might order a field sobriety test if he or she smells an odor of alcohol on that person.

However, police in Lower Saucon Township are being asked to go beyond that type of field work when it comes to the investigation of a mysterious smell that has been plaguing the residents of Steel City, where it’s prompted numerous complaints.

Township council Wednesday unanimously approved a motion to have police go on odor patrol in the area for a 30-day period, beginning May 1.

While on regular patrol, officers will be required to drive with their windows partially down, and they will need to record the location and a description of any odors they encounter in their daily log of activities.

Township manager Jack Cahalan noted that the police have no enforcement authority in terms of foul odors.

The enforcement authority rests with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, which has been investigating the numerous reports of bad-smelling air in Steel City and along Applebutter Road. However, township officials and residents have expressed frustration over the manner in which the complaints are addressed and the amount of time that has elapsed since the odors first appeared.

The township has requested that an air sampling program be instituted in the area, which is near IESI Bethlehem Landfill–a facility some believe could be the source of the smells.

To date, DEP has not committed to undertake that program, but in a letter to Cahalan dated April 15, DEP Waste Management Program Manager Roger Bellas confirmed that his agency will be conducting “further evaluation of IESI’s gas collection system” as well as sampling by a mobile analytical unit later this spring.

“Based on the results of the department’s evaluation of IESI’s landfill gas management and the MAU sampling, a determination will be made if further ambient air monitoring is warranted,” Bellas said.

The results of the police odor patrol are scheduled to be discussed at council’s first meeting in June.

Beyond that, council may consider hiring an outside air quality firm to investigate the matter.

Council solicitor Linc Treadwell said the advantage of hiring a consultant is expertise, which could be called upon in the event of the township wanting to initiate some type of “enforcement action” independent of DEP.

“The police officers can identify that they smell something,” but they’re not trained in air quality monitoring, Treadwell told council.

“I think an independent inspector can only help the situation—not hurt,” said council vice president Tom Maxfield.

The price tag for an outside air quality consultant could be in the $7,500 to $12,500 range, council learned.


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

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