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Milford Compressor Station

Statement on the Milford Compressor Station Fire by Alex Lotorto, Shale Gas Program Coordinator for Energy Justice Network, Local Resident

By x362102 - Energy Justice Network, August 9, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Late last night (August 8), an explosion and fire occurred at the Milford Compressor Station construction site. We at Energy Justice Network are very glad that no one was hurt or injured.

Columbia’s security personnel told concerned residents on Fire Tower Rd that the fire was the result of a contractor leaving an arc welder on or plugged in inside a building. We hope investigators will pursue that lead before concluding it was an arson attack.

We believe a worker negligence scenario should be fully investigated by both the company and state police, especially because work continues at the compressor station daily. There may be a need to re-train or review safety procedures with pipeline contractor employees. This is important for the safety of workers, residents, and first responders.

It is plausible, at the end of the workday Saturday, in a hurry or a lapse of judgment, the workers did not shut the equipment down properly. Workers at that site have been working from dawn to dusk most days since the wintertime and it is possible exhaustion has numbed their awareness of workplace safety. If it is determined that exhaustion contributed to this incident, Columbia and its contractors should, at the very least, offer workers more paid time off.

This incident also highlights the urgent need for an emergency management plan for the compressor and the three interconnected transmission pipelines at that location. Residents living along Fire Tower Rd should never again have to hear an explosion, see emergency vehicles rushing to the location, and wonder whether they should shelter in their homes or evacuate. Phone calls to Columbia's emergency line either went unanswered, or were not helpful.

An emergency management plan is one of the four remedies that have been presented to Columbia during residents' ongoing Environmental Hearing Board appeal's technical settlement negotiations, although no formal agreement has been reached. We hope the company's deficient emergency response to this incident will inform the settlement discussions in a productive way.

The Fine Print I:

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