June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Trustees in dark about pipeline

MEDINA TWP. — Township Trustee Mike Todd criticized representatives of Sunoco Logistics on Thursday for failing to inform trustees of plans to renovate a pumping station at 3623 Watkins Road to move liquid ethane through a 50-year-old pipeline.

Trustees did not know about the project until told by a township resident fearful about possible safety hazards.

Bruce Wagner, project manager, left, and spokesman Joe McGinn, of Sunoco Logistics, display a photo of the pumping station at 3623 Watkins Road, Medina Township, at Thursday night's township trustees meeting. (KIERA MANION-FISCHER / GAZETTE)

“Anything you can do to assuage their concerns is good public relations,” Todd said.

Three Sunoco Logistics employees and a worker from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration answered questions from residents and trustees about the project for 1ᄑ hours at Thursday’s trustees meeting.

The Sunoco employees answered detailed questions ranging from the safety of the pipeline to the “worst-case-scenario” of what might happen if the company’s two communications systems for monitoring the pipeline were down.

Michael Martin, construction manager for the Watkins Road facility, said technicians in Akron or Cleveland are prepared to respond if there is a communication failure or problem with the pipeline, which is monitored constantly for any drop in pressure, which might signify a leak.

“We are monitoring this facility 24/7,” he said.

Bruce Wagner, a project manager for Sunoco Logistics, said the pumping station has its own monitoring system to detect ethane vapor, smoke or flame.

“If we see that, it’s going to shut off,” he said.

Wagner said Sunoco shut the pipeline down a year ago to investigate areas that needed repair and those repairs were made.

The pipeline, which has been there for years, had been shipping only refined products, such as gasoline. It was upgraded so it could move ethane, which is used in plastics manufacturing.

Sandra Bilek, the township resident who brought the project to trustees’ attention, asked what would happen to the two houses near the pumping station if ethane were to leak into the building and ignite.

“Based on my experience, I’d have to say it would be catastrophic for the pumping station,” Wagner said, “but the chances of something catastrophic reaching those areas is pretty small.”

The 395-mile pipeline, which passes through Medina Township, will move ethane from the Marcellus Shale area to Sarnia, Ontario, where it will be used in plastics manufacturing.

The pipeline will be in full operation by the end of the year and will move about 44,000 barrels of ethane per day, Wagner said.

Allan Beshore, community assistance and technical services manager for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which regulates pipelines, said he knew the Sunoco pipeline was inspected in 2010, because he did the inspection.

Bilek said she appreciated the presentation, but still was concerned that it sounded like the company might start moving ethane through the pipeline before installing a fire suppression system in the pumping station.

Bilek is a co-founder of Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a group organized to educate the public about the environmental dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.