Outside experts called for on bulk tank safety

 

BATTLE LINES — Robert Tyszka, at podium, testified Tuesday before the Bridgton Planning Board in opposition to placement of a bulk propane storage facility at the end of Raspberry Lane, where he and 11 other families live. Seated from left are three persons representing Stone Road Energy, LLC, formerly Bridgton Bottled Gas: Jodi Ameden, a Vermont-based energy consultant; Josh Sandahl, Stone Road’s Director of Finance; and Stone Road attorney Christian Chandler. Rita Tyszka is seated behind them. (Geraghty Photo)

BATTLE LINES — Robert Tyszka, at podium, testified Tuesday before the Bridgton Planning Board in opposition to placement of a bulk propane storage facility at the end of Raspberry Lane, where he and 11 other families live. Seated from left are three persons representing Stone Road Energy, LLC, formerly Bridgton Bottled Gas: Jodi Ameden, a Vermont-based energy consultant; Josh Sandahl, Stone Road’s Director of Finance; and Stone Road attorney Christian Chandler. Rita Tyszka is seated behind them. (Geraghty Photo)

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Neighbors opposed to the Bridgton Bottled Gas project told the Bridgton Planning Board Tuesday that the town should hire an outside expert to help them answer unresolved questions on noise, odors and emergency evacuation plans in the event of a leak or explosion.

Tuesday’s public hearing was ordered by the Bridgton Board of Appeals, which ruled in January that the planning board erred when it approved plans to site a 30,000-gallon propane tank at the corner of Raspberry Lane and Portland Road. The ZBA said Bridgton Bottled Gas, which has since been sold to Stone Road Energy, LLC, had not demonstrated it had met the town’s review standards as to pedestrian safety, impact on emergency medical services, air quality and noise. Also unresolved is whether the bulk storage facility is an industrial use and whether, therefore, it constitutes a public nuisance in proximity to a residential development.

“This is obviously a very hot item of interest to a lot of people,” Planning Board Chairman Steve Collins said in leading off the hour-and-a-half public hearing. In attendance, as at previous meetings on the project, were attorneys for both sides and the board’s attorney Aga Pinette. Tuesday’s meeting stood apart, however, in that for the first time, the meeting drew a majority of the residents who live on Raspberry Lane, a 12-lot subdivision of single-family homes.

Attorney Mark Bower of Jensen, Baird, Gardner and Henry told the board he represents eight of those families. He objected to materials submitted the day of the hearing by Stone Road in support of the project, saying the information should be disallowed because it was not submitted at least 12 days before the hearing, as the town requires for public hearings.

Pinette said the board would “take it under advisement,” and following the hearing, the board agreed to recess the hearing until April 12 to allow written comments in response to the new materials submitted by Stone Road. Final deliberations will then be held on Tuesday, April 19, the board decided.

Bower strongly urged the board to hold a site walk on Raspberry Lane, so members could get a feel for the residential nature of the neighborhood. Those who live on the road routinely walk there, including children who walk to the bus stop at the end of the road.

Stone Road Finance Director Josh Sandahl said he installed a motion-activated camera over a 20-day period to record pedestrian activity, and found that only 10 people were out walking during that time. Traffic activity was recorded as an average of around 16 vehicles a day, Sandahl said.

Bower and several residents discounted those findings, saying pedestrian use increases in the summer. Resident Gary LaPlante said 16 vehicles per day was way off, since his family alone would account for around eight trips a day.

Residents also pointed out an earlier error the board made in assuming the length of the dead-end road was a mile, and therefore it would be safe for residents to “shelter in place” at the end of the road in the case of a leak. The actual road length is more like a half-mile, which is within the mandatory evacuation zone recommended under National Fire Protection Safety standards.

“We would be trapped,” said Rita Tyszka. Resident Mike Hanns, a Vietnam veteran, urged the board to consider the question of whether there is an adequate evacuation plan very carefully.

“I’ve seen napalm strikes…if one of those tanks blew…it’s very important, if somebody’s life is on the line,” he said. Rita Tyszka said the NFPA paperwork is incomplete.

Sandahl brought along an expert consultant to address the issue of air quality. Jodi Ameden of Energy Consulting LLC of Thetford, Vt., said the 30,000-gallon tank would only need to be purged once, upon installation, and that would be the only time some odor would escape, other than the small amounts that escape during fill ups.

Bower pointed out that residents have testified to smelling odors already, even before the larger tank is put in place. “When you go from 3,600 gallons to 30,000 gallons, there’ll be severe issues with a bigger tank,” he said.

Resident Kevin Ruane, who lives closer than any other resident to the site, said his family has experienced the odors caused by tank purging, and they have caused his children to become ill.

Ameden told residents, “You are upwind and uphill of this facility, so that would be to your benefit.”

Bower repeated his stance that the board needed an independent consultant to assess the validity of residents’ concerns. When he and Chandler debated the issue of whether the storage facility was an industrial use, Bower said, “You’d have a hard time convincing people in South Portland that their tank farm isn’t an industrial use.”

 

Please follow and like us: