MEDINA TWP. — Township residents are protesting changes to a Sunoco Logistics pump station that they fear raise safety concerns.
At an earlier trustees’ meeting, Medina Township resident Sandra Bilek submitted two petitions — one signed by 34 residents and another signed by 13 residents — listing questions about the project, aimed at enabling the pumping station, at 3623 Watkins Road, to handle ethane gas.
“Residents who live close to this facility are in fear for their lives, she said. “They are concerned about the value of their homes.”
She said the project should have been brought before trustees and the public before it was begun.
Bilek is a co-founder of Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a group concerned about the potential environmental dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Jeff Shields, communications manager for Sunoco Logistics, said the pumping station is part of the 395-mile Mariner West pipeline, which will carry ethane, a natural gas liquid, from the Marcellus Shale area in Western Pennsylvania through Ohio and Michigan to market in Sarnia, Ontario.
Shields said the company is in the process of upgrading the existing pumping station so it can move ethane, which is used in plastics manufacturing.
The pipeline, which has been there for years, had been shipping only refined products, such as gasoline.
“Sunoco Logistics complies with all regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and requirements of this and other agencies,” Shields, said in an email. “In addition, Sunoco Logistics employs advanced systems and management protocols to ensure the safety of its operations and its neighboring communities.”
During the meeting, township resident Gary Fuge described ethane as “highly combustible.”
“Natural gas has an odor to it, ethane does not,” he said. “How do you protect yourself? How do you know there’s a leak until it’s too late?”
Charles Huber, chief building official for Medina County, said the Watkins Road project involves replacing a compressor building and building an addition to an electrical control building.
Huber said he is working with Sunoco Logistics’ engineer to make sure the buildings comply with the Ohio building and mechanical codes, and contain appropriate safety features.
Medina Township trustees first learned about the project three months ago, when Bilek brought it to their attention.
Trustees then hired a Columbus attorney to look into whether ethane is considered a “public utility” and whether the township’s zoning code could regulate it. The township does not have zoning authority over public utilities.
Attorney Mark Yurick wrote in a legal opinion, dated Sept. 19, stating that “Sunoco Pipeline is not a ‘public utility’ as that term is defined by the Ohio Revised Code.”
But he added that the township’s zoning resolution defines public utility more broadly, leaving it unclear if local zoning would apply to the project.
The public comment portion of the meeting became a shouting match between Bilek and trustee Chairman Mike Todd.
The discussion became heated when Todd asked Bilek whether she had talked to a lawyer about the township’s legal opinion.
“I’ve asked you, did you have other attorneys look at it to tell me it’s not right?” Todd asked Bilek.
Bilek answered: “Do I have a legal duty to tell you if I’ve consulted with a lawyer?”
“No, but do you care about your community?” Todd said.
Bilek responed: “You have to ask me if I care about this community and if I care about these citizens? You have to ask me that?
“If you don’t know the answer to that, Mike Todd, then I have a problem with you sitting on that board of trustees.”
Bilek asked that zoning inspector Elaine Ridgely to revoke the permit for the project and for Huber to write a “cease and desist” letter to Sunoco Logistics.
Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@ medina-gazette.com.