Linwood residents, business owners discuss propane tank
A 30,000 gallon propane tank, more than 100 feet long, surprised Linwood-area residents when it arrived next to Tygarts Valley Construction, behind the Big Springs Presbyterian Church.
Ferrellgas Partners, L.P., a Kansas company, owns the tank, and leased the space from Jim Weese, the owner of the construction company.
Ten concerned citizens met with Weese on December 7 and discussed the status of the tank. Ferrelllgas did not send a representative, as was requested.
Some residents expressed concern about the danger of having such a large gas tank in the middle of a populated area, and others said they were worried about the huge tank's effect on their property values.
Pat Stump rents a house on a lot adjacent to the tank and organized the meeting.
"I'm sleeping just 125 feet from this tank, so, I've got some major concerns about the safety issue," he said. "Because I'm the closest one to it, I've had over a dozen people stop into my office and ask me questions about this tank. Many of those people are here and some of them are not. A few of these people suggested we have a meeting to just get it all out in the open and discuss it, and I thought that was a good idea because, maybe, it'll slow the traffic down in my office asking me what I'm going to do about it."
Stump mentioned that Ferrellgas was involved in the 2007 explosion of a 500-gallon tank at a Little General store in Ghent, that killed four people and injured six others.
A U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigation found the propane tank had been installed against the back wall of the store in 1994 by propane supplier Southern Sun, in violation of OSHA regulations and the West Virginia state fire code, which require 500-gallon tanks to be placed at least 10 feet away from buildings. Southern Sun was later acquired by Ferrellgas in 1996, but the tank remained where it was against the back wall.
Investigators concluded that inadequate propane technician and emergency responder training and unsafe propane tank placement were the primary cause of the accident.
The explosion occurred during an improper transfer of gas from one tank to another by an improperly trained technician, who was not a Ferrellgas employee.
Stump noted that the CSB report "chastised" Ferrellgas for filling the illegally-located tank more than 100 times.
"We had four dead and six injuries as a result of that," Stump said. "The concern I have is with the transfer of this gas, which is going to happen a lot at your location. That's where there's the biggest potential for an explosion."
Weese assured the group that the tank had been inspected and approved by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office.
"We've had complaints to the fire chief and the State Fire Marshal's Office," he said. "They came out and did their state and federal inspections and it passed every legality and requirement that it needed to have."
The construction company owner also said a privacy fence and a row of trees would be placed around the tank in the spring.
"Once we get the fence up and get the trees in, you probably won't even know it's there," he said.
"As long as we don't have a problem with it," Stump responded.
Bob Shaffer, who owns a home near the tank, told Weese his primary concern was with his property value.
"I don't care if you put a million dollars worth of landscaping around it, it's still going to detract from my property values," he said. "I don't know what to do about that, other than to seek legal recourse. I just think that the location that was chosen is awful. This county is full of undeveloped land. Why that thing had to be stuck at the entrance to a residential community is beyond me."
It's commercial property," Weese replied.
"There is no commercial property because there is no zoning in this area," Shaffer said. "I know that you didn't do anything wrong - I'm not saying that - I just think that better choices and consideration for other people could have been involved. It's really a one-sided deal."
"This is the type of thing that brings on zoning," Stump said.
Weese said the tank was necessary for a new business venture to serve the Snowshoe resorts.
"The main purpose for that propane tank is for the laundry facility," he said. "That is the big building that I just built. That will be the commercial laundry units that we're going to be using for laundry and that is for the mountain."
Harvey Galford, who owns property in Linwood, said he has no qualms with the tank and that his insurance company was not concerned with its location. Galford said the community was experiencing "growing pains."
The Linwood tank is the same tank that fell off of a semi-truck coming across Droop Mountain in July. Galford noted that the tank was coming up U.S. Route 219, rather than the less-circuitous State Route 92, because federal regulations required it to be transported on a federal road.
Weese said the tank had been thoroughly tested after its arrival in Linwood.
The meeting remained civil and the group thanked Weese for showing up to answer questions.