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Univar wants to offload tank cars at Everson

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 1:41 a.m.

Brian Banerdt, vice president of global operations and supply chain at Univar oil, gas and mining, on Tuesday night outlined possible expansion plans for the former Megablend plant in Everson.

Before his presentation, Mike Banaszak, council president, explained the meeting was a nonvoting session and council did not have to entertain questions from those attending. He added, however, that Banerdt could take questions after his presentation, if he wished.

According to Banerdt, Univar wants to expand the facility to offload tank cars of hydrochloric acid into storage tanks, to be constructed on the property.

He said it would take about nine months for the permits to be obtained and the storage tanks to be built.

Banerdt said the rail cars hold 14,000 gallons of the acid. The on-site storage tanks would be fabricated off-site by another company, then installed in a containment pond made of a solid concrete liner, designed to hold 110 percent of the capacity of the largest tank, 38,000 gallons, in case of failure.

In the meantime, the company would begin offloading the tank cars directly into tank trucks for delivery to Univar's customers or for loading into smaller containers, he said.

Banerdt explained that the rail cars and the tanker trucks have rubber liners that are tested for leaks before each time they are loaded. The temporary transfer apparatus is equipped with a scrubber, which can remove 99.99 percent of the acid vapor. A permanent facility to offload the acid into the storage tanks will also remove 99.99 percent of the fumes.

All of the trucks and tank cars are loaded and emptied through the top, he continued. There are no valves at the bottom that might accidentally be left open.

Banerdt said the company has had no reportable spills in the past five years.

Kathryn Hilton of the Mountain Watershed Association asked what amount of a spill is required for a report to be filed.

Banerdt said it depends on the chemical, but all railcar spills must be reported, no matter how small. Univar has a fleet of more than 500 company-owned and leased railcars.

Several council members asked if local resources were equipped to handle a problem, if there was an accident.

Guy Napolillo, Fayette County Emergency Management Agency 911 coordinator, said the county hazmat teams are prepared to handle problems.

He added that Univar already has a Washington County company under contract that will handle emergencies.

Banerdt said Univar would provide any additional training and funds for fire department and other emergency responders.

Patricia Miller, executive director of the Jacobs Creek Watershed Association, asked about the storm sewer system, which might allow leaked chemicals to enter Jacobs Creek, which flows past the plant.

If the Everson site is used, Banerdt said all of the older storm sewers will be replaced with new concrete pipes, with valves that can be closed if needed.

Miller also alluded to the problem of flooding at the Everson site.

Banerdt said the storage tanks will be built on a higher level, above the level of the railroad tracks, to limit any chance of flooding.

Security at the Everson facility will be upgraded so that the tanks, railcars and trucks can be monitored by censors and video cameras 24 hours a day, he added.

All of the new facilities would be built within secured, fenced-in enclosures.

Banerdt said the plant would initially handle as many as five railcars per week.

That could increase to 10 or more, depending on the needs of Univar's customers.

He said the loaded trucks would not travel through the borough, but drive directly to Route 119 for delivery to Univar's customers.

Presently, the acid is handled at Univar's Pittsburgh facility.

However, that facility can handle no more than two cars at a time.

The use of the acid in the fracking process drew a negative comment from Jan Kiefer, a resident of East Huntingdon.

Kiefer said he is not a “not in my backyard” type of person, but felt that moving chemicals that support the natural gas industry should not be done.

He asked Banerdt about the types of chemicals pumped into the air by natural gas compressor stations.

Banerdt said he did not know the answer because he does not work for a company that drills for natural gas.

He added that if Univar did not supply hydrochloric acid to the drillers, it would be trucked in from another location.

Banaszak said council will discuss supporting the expansion and may take a vote at council's May 20 meeting.

Afterward, if the company decides to go further, a meeting will be set up for residents who have questions and may want to comment.

Univar oil, gas and mining is headquartered in Houston, Texas. Univar's corporate headquarters are in Redmond, Wash.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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