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Resident brings up tanker concerns

City Council members given report commissioned by community member
By: Patty McAlpin Lincoln News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln resident Pete Santina’s comments at the Lincoln City Council meeting Tuesday are causing city officials to reevaluate the Aug. 23, 2011 tanker fire. Lincoln Mayor Spencer Short said the city will take a look at a report offering safety recommendations regarding the facility where a propane tanker fire occurred Aug. 23 and Aug. 24, 2011. The fire at Northern Energy’s Lincoln facility resulted in the evacuation of about 4,800 homes and businesses within a one-mile radius around the facility, the minimum distance recommended by the Department of Transportation’s Emergency Response Guide. During Tuesday’s public comment, Santina presented a report from Pyrocop, Inc., a fire and life safety consulting service owned by Robert Rowe. Rowe retired from a 27-year fire service career in 2007 after serving the final 18 years as deputy fire marshal and acting fire marshal for the city of Downey. “As a former fire marshal of a city with a population of 110,600 in an area of 12.5 square miles, it was my responsibility to insure the safety of the community by applying the provisions of the fire code in a ‘fair but firm’ manner. I have not been directly involved in this matter, but after reviewing news articles and aerial maps of the facility and surrounding areas I understand the concerns of the public and offer the following information and recommendations,” Rowe said in his report. In his report, Rowe wrote that the city of Lincoln was “extremely fortunate that firefighters arrived on scene quickly and were able to keep the container cool, which prevented radiant heat from reaching the surrounding containers which would have otherwise resulted in a catastrophic event.” According to Cal Fire, the concern was not only the possibility of the 20,000 gallon propane tank car exploding but the risk of approximately a half million gallons of propane exploding from the radiant heat, Rowe stated in his report. “As a result of this incident, concerns have been raised by the community regarding future fires and the risks associated with having a liquid propane gas facility of this size so close to a populated area,” Rowe said in the report. Rowe said a propane release at a liquid propane gas facility, depending on the amount of propane stored as well as the tank sizes and configuration, will affect adjacent properties and off-site populations if the release is of a sufficient size. “Depending upon the characteristics of the release and ignition, two types of fires can occur, namely, a fire resulting from ‘pooled’ liquid propane on the ground from a leak or dispensing operations or the ignition of propane vapor resulting in a fireball and/or explosion due to a vapor release,” Rowe said. Santina asked the Lincoln City Council to consider passing a resolution requiring a use permit for the storage and use of liquid propane gas. The conditional use permit for the facility is up in the middle of next year and this would be a good time to open a discussion about safety studies, Santina said. “I’m asking you to modify the permit to make them conform to current fire codes,” Santina said. Santina said since Northern Energy was bought by an Australian company, resources are available to move the facility 10 miles north of its current location, 980 9th St., Lincoln. On Feb. 28, 2011, New Hope’s wholly owned subsidiary, Arkdale Pty Ltd, acquired 80.8 percent of the issued share capital of Northern Energy Corporation Limited, according to a company profile. Santina said moving the Lincoln facility would “give citizens adequate safety, should an explosion occur again.” In his report, Rowe recommended that the city have an in-depth hazard analysis performed. The hazard distance (to a property outside the facility boundary or to off-site persons) from a propane release within the facility will depend on the size and duration of the release and the type of fire that occurs. Short said the city will have to take a look at the report from a legal and engineering standpoint. “I’m always open to all sides of a discussion,” Short said. “My desire is to protect the city from physical and fiscal harm.” Short said the city has not determined when the report will come back to the City Council.