Risk assessment requested for Weymouth compressor station site

Democratic senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren are requesting the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to conduct a risk assessment of Enbridge’s plan to construct a compressor station in the Fore River basin.

“As you know, Enbridge intends to locate a compressor station within a short distance of nearly 1,000 homes and dozens of schools,” said Markey and Warren in a letter to the department. “Additionally, the station’s proposed location is one-tenth of a mile from a sewage pump and water treatment facility operated by the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority.”

Markey and Warren said the code of regulations for pipeline safety states a compressor station must be located far enough away from an adjacent property that is not under its jurisdiction to prevent it from catching fire if a possible blaze occurs at the facility.

Ria Convery, a spokeswoman for the MWRA said the agency would monitor the progress of the project as it proceeds through the approval process.

“The MWRA is committed to providing continuous wastewater services to its 43 member communities,…” she said in a written statement.

State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, said he is glad Markey and Warren are making sure every precaution is in place for the proposed compressor station.

“The government is giving us tools to use to find out how hazardous this compressor station is and we should use every tool,” O’Connor said.

He said every tool needs to be used to explore the risks of a compressor station being placed near the Fore River because the proposed facility would be located on four acres of land and in a densely populated industrial area.

“Four acres of land is not enough when you have compressor stations in other areas that are on 50 acres of land,” O’Connor said.

Alice Arena, co-director of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, said the proximity of the proposed compressor station to the MWRA pump station is ‘absurd.’

“No one is talking about that or taking it seriously at all,” she said.

Arena said the proposed compressor station blow down stack would be located 100-feet away from the MWRA pump station.

“When they have a blow down there could be up to 15 million cubic feet of methane and that will go into the intake vent of the pumping station,” Arena said.

O’Connor said he believes a health risk assessment of the site should be done by an agency.

“I don’t think we should have to call for these assessments,” he said. “They should be done automatically because of the magnitude of this project.”

A health risk assessment of the site is being recommended by Dr. Curtis L. Nordgaard, a Boston pediatrician who has done cell biology research and conducted air quality monitoring in April on behalf of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station.

The two-week evaluation revealed the presence of benzene, methylene chloride, 1.2 ditchloropropane, 2 hexaanone, alkanes, hexane, acetone and ethanol, according to Nordgaard.

Nordgaard recently said during a meeting with the opposition group that the state Department of Public Health should conduct a health assessment in response to an air study he did within a two-mile radius of the proposed compressor station site.

Weymouth District 1 Councilor Rebecca Haugh said the population density near the proposed compressor station site warrants a full risk assessment of Enbridge’s plan.

“It is unlike any other compressor station site in America,” she said.

Congressman Stephen Lynch, D-Boston, recently made a similar request.

Lynch asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to put the proposed compressor station project on hold until a complete investigation is done into a natural gas pipeline rupture that occurred in Providence R.I. on March 29.

Haugh said it is great to have Lynch, Warren and Markey fighting on behalf of Weymouth with regard to its concerns about the proposed compressor station.

“It would be more powerful if the governor was on board,” she said.

Weymouth officials are asking the state Department of Environmental Protection to reject an application by Enbridge subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission for an air quality permit that is needed to construct the compressor station.

Attorney’s representing Weymouth to the DEP previously said the compressor station’s emission plan is deficient because it focuses on a single turbine while ignoring an eventual second turbine to be placed in the facility.

State law permits the DEP to deny an air quality permit to Algonquin if the agency deems the facility would pose hazards.

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