Sickening Odor Plagues Missoula

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A pungent odor that has been plaguing residents of Missoula, Mont., remains a mystery four months after the stench was first detected. And things have gotten so bad that the city and county have created a special task force to deal with the issue.

This morning's Missoulian reports that local officials don't know the source of the odor that has sickened residents of the north and west sections of town, other than it smells like natural gas or burning oil. 

Some residents have even complained of being awakened from their sleep by the smell.

It undermines the value that people place in government," said resident Alex Metcalf, who said he's one of many who have been sickened by the smell. "And it betrays the investment we've made toward collective action."

An air quality specialist said she couldn't trace the odor to a sewer pipe. Meanwhile, health officials aren't ruling out nearby railroad tracks as a source of the smell because some of the shipments that roll through the area contain mercaptan, which is common in crude oil, coal tar, jet fuel and plastics.