Gas leak leads to temporary shutdown of boat tours at Lost River Cave

UPDATE: This story has been updated from a previous report.

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – A state of emergency has been declared in Bowling Green after it’s taken weeks to attempt to identify an unknown gas leak in the Lost River Cave area.

“At first it was so faint it was kind of hard to figure it out,” said Annie Holt, Nature Center director at Lost River Cave.

Back in March, tour guides at Lost River Cave noticed an odd odor emanating from their cave system.

“It would (waft) in and out,” Holt said. “You would get stronger smells on a breeze or at different times of the day. It smelt more like gasoline than anything else.”

And that’s what the leak was – gasoline.

The only problem, though, was trying to figure out where it was coming from.

Now, after weeks of investigation by local environmental officials, the cause of the leak is still undetermined, which is what led to the city declaring a state of emergency, but for the safety of the local environment, not its residents.

“The state of emergency allows us to bring in the federal government and the resources of the federal government, the expertise and equipment of the federal government so that we can one, determine the cause, the root cause of where the gasoline vapors are coming from, and do so in a much quicker fashion,” said Brian “Slim” Nash, Bowling Green City Commissioner.

Nash wanted to assure residents that they are not in any danger because of this leak.

The cave system, however, is not accustomed to dealing with this, according to Holt.

As a matter of fact, she’s never seen anything like it before at Lost River Cave.

“I’ve worked [at Lost River Cave] for 12 years and it’s the first time it’s ever happened,” she added.

The leak is having especially negative effects on business at Lost River Cave, forcing the popular local attraction to shutdown its underground boat cave tours indefinitely.

“We just don’t know,” said Holt about the location of the leak. “We don’t know and that’s why we’re erring on the side of caution by not taking people in the cave.”

Lost River Cave relies heavily on the income it receives as tourists flock to the visit the cave during this time of year, but without being able to offer their most popular attraction, the business is taking a hit that could have long-lasting effects into the summer – even after the source of the leak is finally discovered.

Officials are continuing to work tirelessly to locate the leak’s original source.

“It’s a daunting task, but it’s one we can accomplish,” said Nash.

Until it’s found, though, Lost River Cave has to continue to wait and see how much more cave tours will be impacted. All surface activities at the park such as the ziplines, walking trails, educational programs and others activities that do not include the cave remain open.

“With no time frame in mind, you can’t really count on anything,” said Holt.