Gas discharge noise startles neighbors
BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
MONROE TWP. – Elizabeth Ide said her husband Mark rousted her out of bed around 3 a.m. Friday, but not to go after post Thanksgiving sales.
There was a loud noise that apparently came from a nearby gas dehydration facility, and it went on and on, she said, for more than 30 minutes.
“He tried to get us dressed and out the door, but we weren’t even sure if we were better off staying indoors,” Ide said. “There were no warnings and no one ever explained anything.”
Kunkle Fire Chief Jack Dodson said he had tankers and an ambulance near the Chapin Dehydration Plant’s driveway entrance to Hildebrandt Road within minutes, “but our protocol is not to enter a gas site until the plant operator arrives.”
Chief Dodson acknowledged he heard the loud noise saying it was akin to a freight train going by or large plain landing, and it was emanating from something being spewed in the air 50-100 feet.
People as far away as near Frances Slocum State Park five miles away apparently heard it and numerous residents from both Dallas Township, Luzerne County, and Monroe Township, Wyoming County were alarmed, Dodson said.
He noted the tone went out over Luzerne County 911 at 2:57 a.m., Kunkle responded at 2:59, and PVR Partners plant operator John Stoner was on scene 20 minutes later and the gas flow was shut down at 3:32, and his emergency responders were back at station by 4:30.
Ed Senavaitis, safety and regulatory compliance manager for PVR Partners, homebased in Williamsport, said a safety device at the Chapin facility operated as intended, and early Friday afternoon there was still an ongoing investigation as to what set it off.
He said there was no overcompression of the line, but something malfunctioned, “and we’ll conduct an investigation until we figure it out.”
He said he had no idea about the volume of material that evaporated or dissipated into the atmosphere.
“The safety device is designed to relieve gas as needed and when our manager arrived, he closed a valve and put everything back into normal operations mode,” Senavaitis said.
Chief Dodson noted that before the valve was closed, persons at the Transco line where the gas is fed to, and at Chesapeake which is presently a major supplier of gas being moved from the Baker-Hirkey Compressor Station in Washington Township – another PVR Partners facility – southward through the Chapin facility had to be contacted.
Chief Dodson and Senavaitis both confirmed that at no time was any individual in danger.
Still, Elizabeth Ide said she wanted answers. “I thought there wasn’t supposed to be any noise, and here we’ve had two incidents.”
Chief Dodson said the whole incident was a wake-up call to some emergency protocols that obviously still have to be worked out.
Looking at a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure plan that Chief Energy established when the Chapin plant was built, Dodson said he had two very serious questions for PVR Partners after a similar incident of a shorter duration occurred in September.
In that incident, neither the fire company nor Wyoming County 911 was notified.
In Friday’s incident, Luzerne County 911 which notified Kunkle Fire Company, did not in turn notify 911 in Wyoming County where the plant is actually located.
So Dodson wants to know first, why PVR Partners did not rewrite the Chapin plan after they took over Chief Gathering’s Marcellus assets earlier this year.
Secondly, he wants to know why the established protocol that seems very clear – including contact of Wyoming County EMA – as established by Chief was not followed.
He said late Friday afternoon he was getting answers even if a little late, and he anticipated a new SPCC plan would be forthcoming this week by PVR Partners.
As soon as that arrives, Dodson said he is working out a timetable about how to better keep the public informed as to what’s going on.
While Chief Dodson does not what to downplay the fear factor that the loud noises created in both incidents, he wants to see some mechanism in place that let’s the public know if they are actually in danger.
He said the siren at the Kunkle fire hall will go off at 11 a.m. on Dec. 15 – as a test drill so the public can hear and know when it goes off after that date that they might be in real danger.
Ide said that given the noise of Friday’s incident, she’s not even sure they’d be able to hear the siren.
Still Dodson wants to work something out.
“We were lucky this time, and not a few people were very nervous,” he said. “We all deserve better that that.”