How to Detect a Natural Gas Leak

A natural gas leak is easy to identify if you use your senses. Remember that natural gas is lighter than air and will seek the path of least resistance when it flows freely.

Smell

In its natural state, natural gas is colorless and odorless. We add an odorant called mercaptan to natural gas which gives it a distinctive smell that is similar to rotten eggs.

Look

Natural gas does not spill. If natural gas leaks, it safely dissipates into the atmosphere. Look for these signs of escaping natural gas:

  • Dirt being blown or appearing to be thrown into the air
  • Water at a pond, creek or other wet area bubbling or being blown into the air
  • Fire coming from the ground or appearing to burn above the ground
  • Dry or frozen spots on the ground, especially near a known pipeline or right-of-way 

Listen

Listen for the hissing, blowing or roaring sound of natural gas escaping from a pipe,

If you sense any of these signs of a natural gas leak, from a safe place call 911 and our emergency number at 1-800-544-5606.

What to Do if You Smell Gas...Take Action!

Natural gas is one of the safest, cleanest and most efficient forms of energy available today. Like any energy source, it must be used properly. In its natural gas state, natural gas is colorless and odorless. We add an odorant called "Mercaptan" to natural gas which gives it a distinctive smell that is similar to Rotten Eggs.

If you smell gas "Rotten Eggs":
  • Leave the area immediately.
  • From a safe place, call 911 and us at 1-800-544-5606.
  • Remain in a safe place until we arrive to perform a safety check and find the odor source.

In addition to calling Columbia Gas of Virginia, you must call 911 to report a damage to underground facilities and if there is a release of gas.

If You Smell Gas "Rotten Eggs" Outside

An odor of gas outside your home or business should be reported just as you would an inside odor. Gas leaks from service lines could migrate into a building through walls or drain lines.

  • Turn off and abandon any motorized equipment you are using.
  • Leave the area immediately.
  • From a safe place, call 911 and call us at 1-800-544-5606.
  • Warn others to stay away from the area.
  • Remain in a safe place until we arrive to perform a safety check and find the odor source.

What NOT To Do

  • Do not light a match or candle.
  • Do not use a cellphone or other mobile device as these can cause a spark and create ignition.
  • Do not turn on or off any light switches, appliances, flashlights or tools. These items can also cause a spark.
  • Do not open or close any doors or windows. Natural gas needs a specific level of saturation to ignite. Adding or removing oxygen could cause this saturation level to reach an ignitable level.
  • Do not try to find the leak yourself.
  • Do not turn off any valves or tamper with your gas meter.