For more than a month, a mysterious odor, redolent of cat pee, has been hanging in the air around New Castle, Pennsylvania. 

Residents first noticed the smell permeating some of the downtown and reported it during the weekend of Nov. 1 and the following week. While the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is investigating, the source of the strange odor remains a mystery.

Amanda Witman, information specialist for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said in an email that laboratory results of tests taken in the area a few weeks ago are pending and typically take several weeks to process.

The DEP is awaiting analysis of air and wastewater collection system samples taken during the investigation, she said.

The department had sent a special piece of testing equipment — a mobile analytical unit — to New Castle and had primarily stationed it on the street during the time the smell was prevalent.

According to Witman, the device took atmospheric samples during odor events and the DEP also took upwind background samples, she said.

Final testing results are several weeks away, Witman said.

Each time the DEP has been on site, staff members have taken readings for oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and a lower explosive limit, Witman wrote.

“These are all metrics that would determine if the odor posed an imminent risk to health and safety,” she said, noting that each time the readings were taken, all metrics were at normal levels.

As of now, the smell still lingers near a sewage treatment plant in New Castle's Mahoningtown neighborhood.

Wacher writes for the New Castle (Pa.) News.

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