Imagine a CSX freight train barreling down the tracks toward the village of Saugerties, when it suddenly lurches to the right, hurtling off the rails into two large propane storage tanks. A large fireball turns the night sky into day, the ensuing blast leveling a portion of the western section of the village.
This is the kind of bad dream that keeps Saugerties village planners up at night.
Safety was of paramount concern during its review process for Paraco Gas’s new proposed regional headquarters, which includes two 30,000 gallon propane tanks and a propane distribution center on land adjacent to the CSX freight lines on Route 212.
But after going over the plans with a fine-toothed comb, and receiving assurances that there will be safety measures in place that would prevent an explosion in the case of a derailment, the board decided last week to grant conditional approval to the project.
That won’t be the end of it, though.
Because the site is on a county highway, the Ulster County Planning Board had to review the project, and in its report to the village said, “The UCPB does not recommend the installation of fuel tanks in close proximity to an active railroad, particularly when sited in close proximity to residential neighborhoods.”
However, the county planners go on to say, “The development of a safety plan and installation of safety measures (bollards or berming) could reduce the likelihood of an accident and/or reduce the impacts of an accident.”
“A bollard will stop a freight train?” asked planning board member Jeff Helmuth.
While he admitted that bollards won’t stop a derailed freight train, Sean Ackerman, Paraco’s regional manager, said his company has an impeccable safety record, and will have an emergency safety plan in place. Additionally, should there be a problem with the tanks or distribution equipment, there are automatic shut-off valves, and pipes that automatically seal themselves.
The bollards, Ackerman explained, will be there to keep trucks from crashing into the tanks or pipes.
Saugerties Fire Department Chief David Mason also asked that a fire hydrant be installed on the property should his department have to fight a fire at the scene.
Ackerman said Paraco hopes to have their building and distribution center up and running by July or August.
The building will become Paraco’s regional headquarters as it combines a number of its offices. The distribution system will supply propane to the company’s 600 customers in Saugerties and 3,500 customers in Ulster County.