Belfast also wants say in controversial Searsport liquid propane tank proposal

Posted June 06, 2012, at 6:55 p.m.
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BELFAST, Maine — City councilors heard a lot about land use matters Tuesday night in a regular council meeting that lasted until after midnight.

One issue that generated a lot of debate, according to Belfast City Planner Wayne Marshall, was a request that the city councilors send a letter to the Searsport Planning Board. The letter would ask that the city of Belfast have a say in the fate of a controversial, $40 million liquid propane tank and terminal project.

Marshall said Wednesday that many Belfast residents stood up during the public comment portion of the meeting to state their desire to join the town of Islesboro, which last week sent such a letter to the Searsport Planning Board that was signed by all selectmen.

Ultimately, the Belfast City Council did direct City Manager Joe Slocum to write a letter to the planning board that expresses concerns over the project.

Opponents have said that the large liquid propane project poses many safety concerns to the midcoast region as a whole.

Belfast residents also spoke at length about a proposal from an Allyn Street property owner to plant an arborvitae hedge in the city-owned right-of-way.

If the city agreed, the property owners would have planted the hedge 21 feet into a 66-foot-wide right-of-way that extends to Penobscot Bay.

“Most neighbors thought that was a bad idea,” Marshall said.

Eight or nine spoke Tuesday night, in addition to six who sent letters to the city.

“Most really spoke passionately of their interest in ensuring the right-of-way would be maintained,” he said.

Marshall said that it is likely that the city councilors will not approve the request from the property owners.

Also, city officials discussed the proposed rail trail that would run alongside the Passagassawakeag River.

Initial cost estimates came in at about $5.5 million to build a trail next to the existing railroad tracks, and $1.3 million to turn the tracks into a trail.

In part because of the high costs associated with building a new trail, Marshall said that the city council will be exploring an option called “rail banking.” This would allow the city to retain the long-term option of having a railroad operate in the corridor in the future while removing the track now.

“Who knows what train travel’s going to be like 40 years from now?” Marshall said. “We may have advancements in technology. This is a federal option to allow long-term use of a corridor.”

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  • If Belfast was propose to build something as dangerous to the population and the industries of  all of Penobscot Bay, I would hope Searsport would be smart enough want to have a say too...

  •  If anyone had a clue they would realize how much more danger is posed by GAC Chemical plant they wouldn't be worrying about a propane storage tank.  If there were a catastrophic accident at GAC some of the chemicals they manufacture/store could cause illness and death to people living up to 30 miles away.  I think its laughable that everyone is making such a big deal about a potential accident at this yet to be built propane tank when the chemical plant that is already there has the potential to do 100s of times more damage. 

    A catastrophic type of accident at GAC would result in serious injury to many residents in Searsport, Stockton Springs, Belfast, Prospect, and beyond. 

    How many massive propane accidents do you hear about at storage facilities like this?  How about accidents that have the type of impact that everyone is worrying about?  The answer is never....there has never been a propane storage facility accident that has done the type of widespread damage that all of these opponents are talking about.  Typical spreading of misinformation. 

  • Merely because something has "never" happened is no rationale to think that it never will. It only takes once....

  • In a May 21 letter from the Searsport Water District regarding substitution of town water upgrades in lieu of or in addition to DCPs on-site storage tank, it was revealed that even with this upgrade, there is sufficient water in the District reservoir for only 9.5 hours of firefighting (leaving 50% of capacity they estimate is needed for domestic purposes).  After that, the District would take water from Belfast through the existing Searsport/Belfast emergency interconnection facility.  Belfast does not consent to this arrangement in the letter; presumably Belfast is not even aware of it.

    A 500,000 gallon tank on-site at DCP would add another 4.6 hours of firefighting capability.  In all, we are talking about only half a day of firefighting capacity.  So what happens if fire spreads?  The 1800 gpm estimate is for the DCP facility only - not adjacent properties (including the tanks of volatile materials in the Irving and Sprague Energy properties) or elsewhere in town.  Moreover, it is not at all clear that the water is going to the right places.  An explosion of the LPG tank CANNOT be extinguished -- the plan would be to let it burn itself out -- all 22.7 million gallons at 3000 degrees Fahrenheit).  All the fire department could or would do is to "wet down" the adjacent buildings to try to keep them from burning.  If the strategy is to let the propane burn and only wet down endangered structures, they need to have water mains capable of delivering large volumes of water to adjacent structures as well as the DCP terminal. 

    PEMEX, the largest industrial disaster in the history of the world was started with a fire at an LPG storage facility in San Juanico, Mexico (a suburb of Mexico City) after a leak in the pipeline that was used to refill the tank developed and 10 minutes later the propane gas that had been released was ignited, probably by the flare meant to protect the tank.  For the next 12 hours explosions occurred in the adjacent LPG tanks and the nearby tanks of other volatile materials (like those in the Irving and Sprague tanks at Mack Point).  The explosions registered 0.5 on the Richter scale in Mexico City.  500 people were killed, 600 people were missing (probably incinerated to ash, 6000 to 7000 were maimed and burned, and 60,000 were made homeless.  Here are websites discussing the 1984 PEMEX disaster.
    Wikipedia has a good basic overview of the incident

    Is it worth endangering our people, the safety of our first responders, our environment, or fishing and lobstering grounds, our tourist industry, or property values and marketability, and our infrastructure of roads and water so that a company from away, can bring 8 to 12 jobs that will likely go to people from away, so that they can import foreign liquefied petroleum gas from very far away in the middle east.  This project impacts all of us but will only benefit a very few (if any) in Searsport, Maine.  We need to question the reason this is being forced through the permitting process before a proper analysis of the risks can be conducted for all the public to see, understand and participate in.

  • If you fill the tracks with dirt it makes a nice path... Quit ripping out rail. Everyone knows that the rail will never be put back in by Front Street Shipyard, lets quit pretending that we'll put it back if it gets ripped out to Head of the Tide... Leave the rail, fill it with fine crushed stone. STOP KILLING INFRASTRUCTURE. Inter-modal transportation.. Look at your master plan, I believe it's in there..

    As for the tank, put it to the voters like Searsport did if you want a say. Outside of fear mongering, this would be a huge asset for the state.

  • As for the tank, Searsport voters only voted against a 2 month moratorium, not for or against the tank.
    This is not an asset. There is no need for more propane. The Propane industry says that growth in the demand is flat. It is the most expensive fossil fuel available. DCP only wants to build to push out the existing distribution.
    Every town in the region will be called in for mutual aid if God forbid there is ever an accident at this tank or Mack Point. They should have a say if they are putting their citizens at risk, whether it is a tank accident or a tanker going down Rt.1 or a rail car.
    We need real jobs, not 8 jobs and a big wart in the middle of town.

  • Yes, let's not forget that the tank as proposed, when full, would contain the explosive potential of 33 Hiroshima bombs.  Half a megaton, folks.  And to junker207, how close will you be living and/or working to this tank?

  • a tank fire would not result in a hiroshima scale explosion

  • I would love to work there, and it is only 1 mile closer than GAC  and their amonia. 5 or 6 miles give or take. They had jet fuel over there for years without incident.

  • which years are you talking about?

    Comprehensive Study of Petroleum Hydrocarbons in the
    Marine Environment at Long Cove, Searsport Maine--An Ecological,
    Physiological, Chemical and Histopathological Survey:
    Maine Department of Environmental Protection Contract #906439.  This study was conducted
    between 1976 and 1977 and was designed as a multidisciplinary program to
    study the fate and effects of a pipeline break of jet fuel that
    impacted productive shellfish areas in Long Cove, Searsport, Maine. This
    study included the following elements that were conducted in a
    concurrent, coordinated manner: Sediment and clam tissue hydrocarbon
    chemistry; clam physiology; shellfish population densities; shellfish
    histopathology; reduction in standing clam crop and monetary damage
    No. 2 fuel oil and JP5 jet fuel, following an oil spill into Long Cove,
    Searsport, Maine, U.S.A., in March 1971 became concentrated locally at
    levels up to more than 250 ppm in intertidal sediments from 15 to 25 cm
    below the surface and continued until 1976 to kill successive year class
    juvenile clams as in normal growth behaviour they burrowed down through
    redistributed overlying clean sediments into the oil concentration

  • jeremy, your statement that this will be a huge asset for the state of maine is so ridiculous i can't even get past my thinking  about your less than stellar thinking process. 

  • Rail is finished in Maine. I for one would not want to see liquid propane rail cars anywhere in Maine. If one of those cars derails,  as it is normal on  Maine rails,  it is all over for the town when the rail car explodes. One good thing, most of Maine's rails have been torn up and now are  ATV and Snowmobile Trails.

  •  Everyone watches too much tv or movies.  These tanks and rail cars do not just explode when they tip over.  Why is everyone so stupid?  There are many safety measures in place such as pressure relief valves, reinforced storage tanks, etc that prevent any type of explosion.  If a propane rail car had an accident and excessive pressure built up inside it would blow the relief valve in result in quite a large flame for a long period of time but no big explosion or spectacular fire show.  Unless you are standing directly in line with the valve you are in no danger. 

  • itsaregionalissue 6 days ago

    The entire western shore of Long Cove, where the Searsport LPG
    tank would be sited, is in a designated Potential Coastal Landslide Area. See:

    Specifically, this designation means that the coastal area in
    question has a bluff more than 20 feet high that has not been professionally
    investigated for landslide hazard potential, but similar coastal bluffs have
    experienced landslides in the past. The western shoreline of Long Cove, where the Searsport
    tank would be sited, is designated by the Maine Geological Survey as unstable.

  • myotherbrotherdarrell 6 days ago

    Let's look at Kittery:

    Sitting across the Piscataqua River, right beside the highway and the bridge is a very large bulk propane tank.  It has been there for years.  You've likely driven by it a dozen times without knowing it was there.  Are the people of Portsmouth (Elliot, Kittery) in danger?  Has it affected the environment?  Shipping traffic?  Has there been an accident there?  When was that facility built?  What training does the FD have to handle such a beast?

    Then again, what training must a Maine firefighter have to FIGHT A FIRE ON A NUCLEAR SUBMARINE?

    The probability of a warship coming to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is very high.  The probability of one of those warships catching fire is very low.  Did the Kittery FD have the training to fight a submarine fire?  Probably not.  

    The difference being is that many fire departments across the State have had propane fire training.  Heck, I did years (years) ago.

    My hopes for Waldo County and the Town of Searsport is that a proper response plan will be developed and a training program implemented that would ensure that the standards of safety and prevention are set high for DCP, the level of training for the area responders is high (and free of charge) and that any hazard in their town (and in my town) be evaluated and taken seriously.

    Before I sign off, let me get on my soapbox and say that in this time of budget cuts, please don't skimp on funding the emergency responders (police, fire and EMS).  They need to be trained and equipped to do the best job they can.  And, if you are an officer or chief of one of those departments, spend your budget wisely and give the taxpayer the biggest value for their dollar.  

  • SO...why should the taxpayers of neighboring towns need to beef up their training, personnel, and equipment to cover the a** of Searsport in a big fire, if Searsport gets all the (supposed) benefits and the rest of us gets none?

  • myotherbrotherdarrell 6 days ago in reply to Smarten_Up

    Thank you for making me smile.

    For the record, I wouldn't suggest that your town's Fire Department beef up their training and personnel for anyone but YOUR TOWN.  Tell me, why wouldn't you want THE BEST in your first responders.  The best in training, the best in equipment, the best for the citizens of your town.

    So you benefit. And for the benefit for the rest of the citizens of your town, for or against this project or any other project inside or outside of where you live, make sure your first responders have what they need.

    I'd also like to explain that, at least I'm my town, and I presume yours too, the area departments have forged mutual aid compacts where, if the brown stuff is hitting the oscillating thingy, and my town has personnel and equipment your town needs, my town will come.  And vice-versa.  I want the best responding to my emergency, from my town or not.

    Please don't take my word for it.  Search out the truth by asking your fire chief or town manager.  

    BTW, seriously, I like the pseudonym.  I think we'd all like to smarten up.  That's why we ask questions and become informed and THEN form our opinion.

    Have a great day!

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