Apex, N.C. — A widespread gas odor reported throughout much of western Wake County on Wednesday night was caused by people dismantling propane tanks for scrap metal in Apex, according to town spokeswoman Stacie Galloway.
Firefighters responded to an area of Evans Road, where they found "folks cutting into some old high-pressure propane tanks," Galloway said.
Before the thick odor, Ben Jones said he heard a loud noise coming from the wooded area behind his house.
"Grinding, like chainsaws, two of three guys out this way in the back area just cutting stuff," he said. "A foul odor started filling the whole house up, filled the whole area up."
Galloway said the odor traveled for miles. WRAL viewers in Apex, Cary and northwest Raleigh reported a very strong gas smell starting around 7 p.m.
Fire officials said there was no danger to the public, but Jones said he worried about his safety.
"I smoke cigarettes. I am like, are we allowed to smoke a cigarette out here? Are we going to blow up or what?" he said.
"It smells worse than it is," said Galloway, adding that the tanks are old and have only residual amounts of propane in them.
She said the smell comes from an additive and not the gas itself, and that concentrations weren't strong enough to cause any health problems. Still, she urged anyone who experiences headaches or other symptoms to seek medical assistance.
Jones said the smell made him feel nauseated.
Officials said there is no danger of ground or water contamination.
It wasn't clear whether anyone could be charged for tampering with the propane tanks. Authorities are checking with the Department of Health and Agriculture to determine whether any laws were broken.