A noxious odor caused by an asphalt sealant in the Carson Mall parking lot led to a voluntary evacuation of a state office building Thursday morning and a response by the fire department.
Employees of Bobby Page Cleaners at the Carson Mall reported at about 8:30 a.m. that there was an "unpleasant odor." Employees of the departments of Public Safety and Motor Vehicles on Stewart Street also mentioned smelling the chemical, said Daniel Burns, Southern Nevada regional manager for the Department of Public Safety/Emergency Management.
Likened to cat urine by some, the smell hung thick in the air between the mall and government offices on Wright Way, and caused officials to request state employees in the west wing of the building leave the offices while the source was located.
Thirty-six Nevada Highway Patrol employees were moved to the Department of Public Safety's training complex on Snyder Boulevard for observation after some complained of nose and throat irritation. They returned to their offices Thursday afternoon.
According to Carson City Fire Battalion Chief Bob Charles, the source was determined to be Gilsonite, a black liquid with a petroleum-solvent odor, being used by a crew to seal the asphalt in the Carson Mall parking lot.
"We have isolated it to this sealant," Charles said.
Charles said the complaints of nose and throat irritation are consistent with exposure symptoms listed on the material safety data sheet on Gilsonite. None of those who complained required hospitalization, noted a press release sent out by the fire department Thursday afternoon.
"While the asphalt sealant has a strong odor, it is commonly used and not dangerous unless it is highly concentrated in a closed space," the release states.
The asphalt project at the mall is expected to be completed by this afternoon.
Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.