Mysterious odor closes Hickory Social Security office

by: Dave Faherty Updated:

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HICKORY —

A Social Security office in Hickory was finished in late 2012, but closed in February because of a mysterious odor inside.

Reporter Dave Faherty dug deeper to find out what it means for the future of the building, and uncovered how the government’s messaging system is adding to the confusion.

Firefighters say the odor is similar to the smell of opening a new plastic shower curtain. They have been working for months to figure out where the smell is coming from, but still have not figured it out.

Car after car pulled into the parking lot of Monday only to find the office was closed.

A security guard directs anyone who comes to the office.

“He told me to go to Statesville,” said one man who came to visit the office.

He showed Channel 9 the map he was given to the Statesville office, which is more than 30 miles away. Others are being directed to Gastonia. Many who showed up Monday said the department’s 1-800 number did not alert them about the office closure.

Faherty called the number and typed in the ZIP code for Hickory. The response he received was, “OK, here's the information for the servicing office in the ZIP code you gave me. That street address is 1040 Southgate Corporate Park Southwest."

That address is the same one for the building that is no longer open.

"I'm confused,” said visitor Danielle Cline. “I drove up here with my aunt thinking I could get this done today and I'm already kind of behind. They didn't send me paperwork and now I have to drive to Gastonia."

A spokesperson with the Social Security Administration was unaware of the problem with the 1-800 number until we told him. He promised to look into it, and told us the employees at the office have been relocated because of the recurring odor.

Firefighters checked the air quality earlier this year but their meters did not indicate anything hazardous.

Hickory resident Jim Rogers found out about the closure Monday and believes he has a solution.

"Well I think they ought to open the windows and doors like we would at the house and air it out," Rogers said.

The U.S. General Services Administration released the following statement Monday about the building:

“GSA is working with the owner of the SSA Office building in Hickory, NC to track down the source of an unidentified and periodic odor.  Independent air quality tests to date have returned negative findings and have not detected a public health risk.  However, out of an abundance of caution, the facility has closed temporarily and SSA services will be redirected to other area offices until the matter is resolved.”