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Thursday, August 8, 2013
A company called Inergy wants to build a propane and butane gas storage terminal and rail transfer station in Roanoke on undeveloped land along Bennington Street across from the sewage treatment plant. This undeveloped land is in a flood plain. The station would provide four or five jobs.
A little online research on Wikipedia tells me that propane is a useful but highly explosive liquid gas. Just a few days ago, eight people were injured amid huge blasts and multiple fires at the Blue Rhino gas cylinder depot in Tavares, Fla.
Propane is denser than air. If a leak in a propane fuel system occurs, the gas will have a tendency to sink into any enclosed area and thus pose a risk of explosion and fire, unlike liquid natural gas, which tends to dissipate in the air. Some of the worst disasters with greatest loss of life in the world have been fires and explosions at propane depots.
The proposed facility would have three 60,000-gallon propane bulk-storage tanks and two 90,000-gallon butane bulk-storage tanks, and there will generally be 10 30,000-gallon capacity rail cars on the site at any one time. That means there could be 300,000 gallons of highly explosive materials in addition to what already would be in the five storage tanks.
In addition, during peak winter season up to two trucks per hour will travel from the facility along Bennington and 13th streets to Jamison Avenue to Interstate 581. I understand that propane is currently trucked to Virginia from North Carolina.
I’m sure that Inergy would like to save costs and increase company profits by having a terminal in Roanoke.
This location would also benefit Inergy, as it is close to railroad tracks and the highway. There is, however, little benefit to the city of Roanoke, and much risk in allowing this facility so close to a residential area.
Communities in states like Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri have lived with massive, industrial scale methane and LPG storage facilities as their neighbors and have had to adapt to potential dangers. Local communities have had to create emergency management plans and put equipment and personnel in place to handle a worst-case scenario.
This is an expensive and dangerous burden to place on our local fire departments and emergency first responders, who will have to be equipped to handle disasters of this magnitude so that Inergy can line its corporate pockets with profits.
Ordinarily, I like to see new companies bring jobs, revenue and taxes to Roanoke, but in this case the risks far outweigh the minimal benefits to the city. An accident would be catastrophic to thousands of residents.
This sort of facility belongs in an area with as few homes as possible and should not be placed so close to high-density areas of Roanoke. According to our newly approved Parks and Recreation plan, the city has a great need for sports fields. This seems a much better use for this land, which is inappropriate for most other development because of the flood risk.
This facility just doesn’t belong near our residential neighborhoods.
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