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Proposed LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) Storage Project
Inergy LP, owner of the US Salt plant approximately one mile north of Watkins Glen, NY on the west side of Seneca Lake, has applied to the NYS DEC to build a LPG storage project utilizing the existing salt caverns. Their initial proposal calls for storing 2.1 million barrels (more than 88 million gallons) of LPG in the existing caverns with a 20 acre, open air impoundment filled with brine (extremely salty water) on the steep slope 400 feet above and approximately 2,400 horizontal feet from Seneca Lake. The company also plans to store more than 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the salt caverns. This storage will be connected by a pipeline to a new rail siding capable of loading up to 20 rail cars, containing 30,000 gallons of LPG each, every 12 hours and a new truck depot capable of loading and unloading 4 semi-trucks each hour, 24 hours a day.
According to the company%u2019s website, their future plan is to increase this storage to 5 million barrels (approx. 210 million gallons) of LPG and to increase natural gas storage as they create new caverns through solution mining of the salt. Common sense tells us that this would require even more train and truck capacity and increased brine storage in close proximity to Seneca Lake. According to their website this facility is integral to their Northeast Regional Storage and Transportation Hub and is poised to take advantage of, %u201Cthe aggressive pace of exploration and development of the Marcellus Shale%u201D.
What Does This Mean For Us?
-New and increased truck traffic on roads and Village streets already stressed to the limit. Excess wear and tear that local governments and taxpayers will be responsible for. Even more congestion during prime tourism season and during rush hour (Think NASCAR weekend!). Increased noise and fumes from diesel including ground level ozone that is hazardous to humans as well as vegetation, particularly Grapes!
-Giant open air surface ponds filled with Brine built on a steep gradient in close proximity to Seneca Lake. Huge salt caverns filled with LPG and Natural Gas UNDER Seneca Lake in an area whose geology is known to have fractured, jointed rocks with many fissures and faults. A catastrophic failure of either would jeopardize Seneca Lake. According to a research study by Professor John D Halfman of the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith College, Seneca Lake is a Class AA drinking water supply for approximately 100,000 people, contains over 50% of the water in all 11 of the Finger Lakes, is ESSENTIAL to the local economy, injecting $100 million through tourism and recreation and, if compromised, would take generations to recover.
-Equipment failures happen and human error occurs. According to John Hopper, President of Falcon Gas Storage in Texas, of the more than 400 underground gas storage facilities in the US, only 7% are salt cavern storage, however, all 10 of the %u201Ccatastrophic losses%u201D since 1972 (11, now, with the recent explosion in Texas) were in salt storage facilities. Some included loss of life and evacuation of entire towns (up to 3 miles distant). Are the local firefighters and hospitals and ambulance crews trained and equipped to handle a worst case scenario?
-Giant compressors would be required to pressurize the caverns and transfer the brine and LPG back and forth and these would run 24hours a day, 7days a week, 365 days a year. Flaring of vented gas 24/7.
-We know that naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) are present underground in our area. What we don%u2019t know is if these will come up with the brine and become concentrated in the open air impoundments.
-Byproducts of LPG refinement are used to make plastics, among other things. Do we face the prospect of further industrialization of Seneca Lake?