From the ‘what was THAT?’ department: Mystery odor

Got some texts about an unpleasant scent in the air in the Highland Park area. The Seattle Fire Department got calls too about a “chemical odor,” and Engine 37 was briefly logged to a call checking it out in the 11th/Kenyon area – but SFD spokesperson Kyle Moore says they couldn’t find the source.

25 Replies to "From the 'what was THAT?' department: Mystery odor"

  • HPRez January 16, 2013 (10:45 am)

    It was shockingly awful! It smelled like chlorine – I wish they would have tried a bit harder to figure out what it was!

    • WSB January 16, 2013 (11:23 am)

      With stagnant air – part of the reason for the burn ban, and the subject of an official advisory – something like that really carries; on Twitter, someone tells us it was noticeable all the way to South Seattle Community College – TR

  • Sassy January 16, 2013 (11:37 am)

    I really don’t understand how they quit before finding the source – or at least dispatch someone else to locate it. Seems like a potential public health hazard to me.

  • Jim January 16, 2013 (11:59 am)

    noticed it at 1st ave near the 1st ave South bridge.

  • westwood_mom January 16, 2013 (12:03 pm)

    My son noticed the chlorine smell here in westwood/near SW library.

  • Eric January 16, 2013 (12:24 pm)

    I smelled it this morning in three Westwood area, but it didn’t smell like chlorine to me. It was more like Formaldehyde or something chemically strong like that. It was so strong that I
    was walking around my yard trying to figure out where it was coming from.

  • Karen January 16, 2013 (1:00 pm)

    I don’t live in W. Seattle, but I noticed a smell like that described while driving to work – along Hwy 99, due east of the Reservoir. Not sure if it actually was the same smell, or if it was a similar one. I’m fairly new to the Puget Sound area, I’m not sure how well smells travel.

  • Michelle January 16, 2013 (1:05 pm)

    I also smelled it today around High Point. It smelled like chlorine to me, too. It was very strong. I thought perhaps someone was doing industrial cleaning in our neighborhood. Bizarre.

  • Stor January 16, 2013 (1:43 pm)

    We were wondering as well, very strong this morning when we were out playing with the dogs in the backyard, we live in sunrise heights. It smelled like concentrated fumes from some kind of cleaning chemicals and it seemed to go away as the fog lifted

  • bsmomma January 16, 2013 (2:20 pm)

    We smelled a funky odor this morning in the 7 o’clock hour in North Admiral all the way to Delridge C.C. Definitely not a chlorine smell but smelled of a burnt chemical????? I thought maybe there was something going on with my car.

  • DBM January 16, 2013 (2:44 pm)


  • comment January 16, 2013 (3:23 pm)

    I smelled something like chlorine and sulfur while driving. Thought it was my battery but when I parked at home I couldn’t smell anything.

  • Nemobean January 16, 2013 (4:00 pm)

    Poor LaFarge…always getting the blame.

    Kind of like the RED HEADED STEP CHILD! LOL!!!

    • WSB January 16, 2013 (4:36 pm)

      Two notes:
      1. There are other industries in the area as well, if it was from an industrial source.
      2. I neglected to mention this – it’s important. Serious stink is an air-quality issue. Report it to

  • Amanda January 16, 2013 (4:43 pm)

    We smelled it last week Wednesday as well in Westwood. Called 911, and reported it to It was strongest at 9:30 ish, and gone by 11:00am. I had a friend in Georgetown that smelled it as well, called 911, but they chalked it up to someone welding? Maybe her smell and ours was different, but it sure is strange.

  • I. Ponder January 16, 2013 (5:40 pm)

    I think it was something my neighbor was cooking.

  • Greenpeace January 16, 2013 (6:18 pm)

    Gross! Did they ever figure out the source?

  • iggy January 16, 2013 (6:43 pm)

    Like Amanda, we smelled it last week at Westwood. Was like the smell of burning oil.

  • kate January 16, 2013 (9:03 pm)


  • m January 16, 2013 (10:26 pm)

    So it seems we’ve gone from “the hum” to “the smell?!”

  • YMa January 17, 2013 (6:31 am)

    We’ve had 2 different odd smells the past couple of evenings -around 7:30 – 8:30 pm. One was an ammonia-ish odor & last night very fishie. So strong at one point I thought the cat had gotten into his treats – but no. Can’t figure it out.

  • Heather January 17, 2013 (5:00 pm)

    This is the same smell that recurs every so often. It is likely a byproduct from the cement plant burning or whatever it does…have looked into this on numerous occasions, but the air quality folks say they can’t really do anything about it because it’s too hard to track. Gross and not healthy for us. See

  • Ann January 17, 2013 (11:01 pm)

    I live in Arbor Heights and I have been smelling a chemical smell off and on for at least the past two to three years. It kind of smells like Chlorine. Yesterday it was particularly strong. I have never reported it, because I have not heard anybody else complain about it.

    I am going to log in a complaint now.

  • Jeff platt January 17, 2013 (11:23 pm)

    I live on the hill at the end of holden
    The smell was the factory exhaust from the river area
    The plant turns on early and with the lazy air that day it made its way to our hood.
    Most days it blows northwest but yesterday it was headed right for highland park
    I dont know what the plant or factory makes but it stinks
    i was right about the hum too
    Its the factory north of where the hum came from

  • Matt January 22, 2013 (12:46 pm)

    I work right there and it is the business with the barrels stacked up in my opinion. It smells of a burning/chemical smell. It is frequent but alternates days and times, it can be really strong and I always wonder what im breathing.

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