Roar at gas transport site startles neighbors, There was a malfunction but no immediate threat, says Kunkle fire chief

Roar at gas transport site startles neighbors, There was a malfunction but no immediate threat, says Kunkle fire chief by Matt Hughes, November 24, 2012, Times Leader
MONROE TWP. – A deafening roar shrieking from a natural gas transport facility startled neighbors from their beds during a gas release early Friday morning. Emergency crews were dispatched at about 3 a.m. Friday to the natural gas dehydration station operated by PVR Partners, of Radnor, off Old Highway Road in Wyoming County, just over the Luzerne County line, for a reported gas blow-off. It was the second time crews were called to the station to investigate loud noises since it went online in late September; and, according to witnesses, the din lasted longer and sounded louder this time. Kunkle Fire Chief Jack Dodson said that according to PVR, a pilot malfunctioned on a pressure relief valve on the dehydration station, which removes moisture from gas in a gathering pipeline entering the station before it is pumped into the Transco interstate pipeline nearby in Dallas Township. The broken pilot allowed moisture to enter the relief valve which then froze, causing it to open and vent, or blow off, natural gas, Dodson said. A roar like a freight train emanated from the station and a methane cloud rising 50 feet high poured from the open valve “like a steam pipe that was broken” until crews from PVR could close the valve, Dodson said.

“This time people are really, really upset, including us,” Ide said. “We’re stuck. We can’t sell our house; who’s going to want to buy it? We can’t move away. All we know is we’re very, very upset, along with everybody else.” She described panic as she and her husband waited 10 minutes for the noise to stop then considered evacuating. “We don’t know what’s going on; we don’t know what this stuff is that’s flying out of here,” she said, describing the scene. “You open the door and you can’t even hear outside, that’s how loud it is. Your first impression of it is it sounds like a jet engine, like you were standing at the airport when the jet takes off.” Roger Samuels, who lives about one-eighth of a mile from the station on Old Turnpike Road, said the noise also rattled livestock and pets in the area “I know a man down the street who has a couple dozen sheep; they were running all over the place,” he said. “The people who live across the way had to calm their horses at 3 in the morning. Our dogs were barking continuously.”

Because a gas leak “of that magnitude” qualifies as a hazardous materials release, Dziak said the county emergency manager should have been notified immediately under state law. “We were not notified of anything throughout the night,” Dziak said. “We didn’t learn anything about this since residents called us early this morning. Procedures weren’t followed and we need to work through that system.”

Dziak said the incident, which occurred near the Luzerne County line, was dispatched by Luzerne County 911. Luzerne County EMA Director Stephen Bekanich said he was not notified about the incident Friday.
PVR Director of Investor Relations Stephen R. Milbourne did not return a call and email seeking comment Friday. Following the September shutdown, Milbourne said sound dampening equipment would be added to the station to prevent neighbors from being disturbed by loud noises. Ide and Samuels said they have not seen that equipment and the noise was just as loud, if not louder, this time. … “I spoke to several residents after the first accident, and no one wanted to come forward,” Cannon said. “Now people are getting really scared and want to do something about it.” [Emphasis added]

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