BEACON FALLS — Neighbors are concerned about the recent installation of six 30,000 gallon propane tanks in the industrial park.
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the new business on Haviland Drive in the Pinesbridge Commerce Park last year, but it was news to residents of Pond Spring Village, who weren’t aware of the plans until the tanks were delivered a few weeks ago.
“That’s the first we heard about it,” said William Davis of October Lane. “No one had any idea this was going to be undertaken.”
Davis and several other residents raised questions about safety at a Board of Selectmen meeting last week.
Davis said he lives about 1,500 feet from the tanks and was worried that low water pressure in the area would make it difficult for the fire department to respond to an incident with the tanks. He said he was also concerned about the amount of traffic that would be created with propane deliveries and the size of trucks coming and going from the site.
“A lot of the homeowners here are upset,” Davis said.
Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Kevin McDuffie said the business approached the commission in May 2015 about a property in the industrial park.
McDuffie said the business owners, under the name William Deez Properties LLC, gave the commission an extensive overview of propane safety and met all the state safety standards and town regulations.
He said information regarding the commission’s hearings on the project was posted on the town’s website and at Town Hall, in accordance with state law.
Pioneer Gas and Appliance Co. owner William Papale Jr. said he plans to keep his current location in Shelton, but wanted to open a business in Beacon Falls, where he’s lived for over 30 years.
“I’ve always wanted to work in the same town I live in. Traffic’s horrible these days,” Papale said.
He said the new location will allow the business to reach a few towns it doesn’t serve currently.
Pioneer has been in Shelton since 1933, Papale said. He said his grandfather started Pioneer Auto Stores, a home gas distributor that sold bottled gas for cooking, as well as everything from ice skates to break pads to gum balls. When Papale’s father took over the company in the early 1990s, he started selling bulk propane, delivering to residential and commercial customers.
In 2010, an unoccupied propane truck parked on the Pioneer lot caught fire overnight, according to a report in the Valley Independent Sentinel. Papale said that truck experienced an electrical malfunction which had nothing to do with any propane part of the truck.
In 2012, two Pioneer employees were badly burned in an explosion while hooking up new propane tanks in a Shelton home, according to reports in the Connecticut Post. The employee didn’t check for residual gas with a meter after plugging up a leak, according to the Post. When he lit a pilot light, a gas pocket exploded. Papale said his employees had ventilated the area and believed all the gas was out.
The new propane tanks in Beacon Falls will exceed codes set forth by federal and state agencies, Papale said. He said there are numerous redundant safety valves, access flow, thermal regulation and pressure relief valves.
The new business site will eventually have a 3,000-square-foot business office and service garage, Papale said. He said he hopes to get the tanks up and running for this winter.
The single 30,000 gallon tank in Shelton needs to be filled once a day to keep up with customer demand, Papale said. That can be a problem during New England winters when snow and ice block the trains that supply the tanks.
“If we get hit with an ice storm and tanks can’t move, you’re out of product and people get cold,” Papale said.
Beacon Hose Company No. 1 Fire Chief Jim Trzaski said he’s working with the business to make sure there is an adequate supply of water to the site in case of an emergency. He wants to create a dried pipe system so fire apparatus can fight a fire from the roadway, instead of having to go inside the facility. He wants pre-piped deluge guns or a deluge sprinkler system.
“Like anything else, there are risks, but the gas industry as a whole has had a long history of safe operation,” Trzaski said.
Fire Marshal Edgar Rodriguez said the tanks will need to be inspected by the state fire marshal’s office and comply with strict regulations before they can begin operation.
“You can’t just pull the tanks in and fill them up and start using them,” Rodriguez said.