A hazy scene at City Hall document dump

Reporters sorting 1.4 million pages of paper documents inside Atlanta's old City Council chambers became mildly alarmed Friday morning when a sickening electrical smell turned into a smoky haze.

Credit: Dan Klepal

Credit: Dan Klepal

The burning smell sent reporters quickly unplugging computers and other electronic devices. The smoke brought one police officer and a crew of city maintenance workers into the room. They told the small contingent of reporters, editors and cameramen that the smell was completely normal, and happens whenever the radiators are first turned on.

It was about 40 degrees Friday morning, and the heat was turned on after a few reporters were complaining about the cold room.

Councilman Howard Shook, who had come to the room to see for himself the hundreds of cardboard boxes stacked throughout the room, entered at the height of the burning smell.

"It'll be OK," Shook quipped. "There's nothing flammable in here."

After a smell test, the guilty radiator was identified, and the maintenance crew started taking it apart.

What happened?

"Somebody threw a joint in there and it started smoking," one of them said.

Belly laugh.

"Naw, it's something electrical," he added, apparently after realizing he was talking to a reporter.