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Murrysville residents lay out concerns about natural-gas compressor station expansion

Patrick Varine
| Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Above, a concept drawing of an expansion at the J.B. Tonkin Compressor Station at 5423 Mamont Road.
Submitted photo
Above, a concept drawing of an expansion at the J.B. Tonkin Compressor Station at 5423 Mamont Road.
The JB Tonkin Station in Murrysville, on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
The JB Tonkin Station in Murrysville, on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.

Before Murrysville council votes on a request by Dominion Energy to expand a natural-gas compressor station, William Pontier wants members to know how the existing station impacts his quality of life.

“I can smell gas from the station almost all the time,” Pontier, 76, who lives on Mamont Road near Dominion Energy's J.B. Tonkin compressor station, told council last week. “They're telling you the noise sounds like a dishwasher? You go up there, park your car and tell me it sounds like a dishwasher. It goes on 24 hours a day, all the time.”

Dominion officials want council to approve a conditional-use permit for a large-scale expansion of the station, which compresses and transports natural gas. Council next meets Wednesday. A meeting agenda was not available.

As part of the $460 million project, Dominion wants to add a compressor unit that would be housed in its own building, a motor-control building that would include offices, an auxiliary building with a backup generator, an air system and hot-water boiler, and a building housing valves and other equipment.

The expansion would boost the station's compression capacity by about 26,000 horsepower, according to Dominion Energy documents.

Several residents expressed concern over the station's current — and, if the expansion is approved, future — emissions, as well as its proximity to nearby homes and schools.

“Whatever happens at the Tonkin compressor station will never be more than a few thousand feet from my family,” said Jason Bittel, who lives on Ashbaugh Road and whose children will attend nearby Sloan Elementary School.

“Dominion's going to look after Dominion, obviously,” he said. “We elected you to look after us.”

Resident Susan Stewart-Bayne and others referenced the $53 million elementary campus project that Franklin Regional school officials recently undertook on the Sloan Elementary property, located about 1 12 miles from the compressor station.

“I think that we as citizens have the right to know that our children are in not just a nice but also a safe school,” she said.

Larry Quinten, who lives on Christy Road near the compressor station, asked whether adjacent neighbors could, at minimum, be notified whenever the station is performing a “blowdown,” when gas is vented to depressurize equipment.

Paul Wilmoth of Dominion Energy said such notifications should already be happening.

“It's part of our procedure,” Wilmoth said. “Residents and 911 should be notified of scheduled blowdowns. It sounds like there are some deficiencies in that notification. We may be able to expand that.”

Resident Barbara Sims said she hoped council members would consider more stringent conditions.

“Please do not vote on this expansion until you've done everything in your power to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community,” Sims said.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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