Last updated: February 12. 2014 10:35PM - 1665 Views
By Jon O’Connell joconnell@civitasmedia.com

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BEAUMONT — Apart from rattling the nerves of those living nearby, officials said a steam and smoke release at a natural-gas processing plant Wednesday morning was not considered harmful.

Luzerne County 911 dispatched emergency crews to the Chapin Dehydration Station along Route 309 around 9 a.m. for reports of yellow smoke and a sulfur smell in the air. By about 10 a.m., fire crews were leaving the scene. Technicians remained inside the facility. Gray smoke still rose from the stacks, a sight neighbors said was unusual.

PVR spokeswoman Christine Reimert in an email said a Tunkhannock-area power outage caused the Hirkey Compressor Station in Washington Township, which feeds the Chapin station, to be shut down Wednesday night as a matter of protocol. The Hirkey and Chapin incidents were unrelated, Reimert said.

However, Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said, as a result of the Hirkey losing power, excess gas entered gathered in the dehydration unit.

A dehydration station filters moisture from flowing natural gas.

“We found that there was inefficient burning of gas that had piled up in the (dehydration) unit since the Hirkey station shut down,” Connolly said. “We don’t believe it was dangerous levels.”

DEP requested a formal report from PVR to be filed within about 15 days, Connolly said.

Reimert said there was no pipeline interruption and no safety concern resulting from the incident. Vapor from the combustion process in dehydration condensed due to the cold which created visible steam, she said.

Officials and PVR technicians could not smell the odor that was originally reported, Reimert said.

“Certainly, the safety of the communities where we operate is always our top priority, and as is our protocol, we are working cooperatively with local and state officials,” she said.

The Chapin station has troubled nearby residents before, most notably when venting gas awakened the rural neighborhood in the early morning after Thanksgiving 2012. The jet-engine-like noise startled livestock and neighbors living near the station.

Wednesday’s release marks at least five reported events in about two and a half years.

Twenty residents living near the facility have filed suit for damages claiming PVR has cheapened their property values and lessened their rural quality of life with the repeated disturbances.

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