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Town, natural gas company officials reply to safety concerns

Columbia officials replied March 5 to Scottsville Street residents’ safety concerns regarding the natural gas regulator station on Ludington Drive.

Mayor James Cahoon produced a six-page report of a meeting he and Mayor pro tem Sandra Owens held with Piedmont Natural Gas (PNG) representatives on February 14.

Cahoon termed the 3-4 hour session “productive.”

“It is our hope that this information provides the answers and explanations needed by the Scottsville Street residents to relieve concerns related to the natural gas regulation station located on South Ludington Drive,” Cahoon stated.

COLUMBIA MAYOR PRO TEM SANDRA OWENS and Mayor James Cahoon (right) met with Piedmont Natural Gas representative on February 14. (R. McClees photo)

He listed four “positive actions” that have resulted as a consequence of the community’s expressed concerns:

– They have been able to establish appropriate protocol and procedures through their local Emergency Management Office as related to a natural gas emergency.

– PNG will be working with our local emergency response personnel to offer further training related to natural gas safety responses.

– Information has been provided that helps to educate the local citizens about the safety issues related to natural gas.

– Personal and contact relationships have been established between the Town of Columbia representatives, Emergency Response Personnel and Piedmont Natural Gas representatives.

Most of the six-page report deals with 13 questions supplied by Vanessa Hassell and PNG’s replies. Two examples:

Q. Why was the regulation station (previously reported as the “city gate”) placed in this residential neighborhood?

A. It was the most logical, convenient and reasonable site as this is where the main transmission line enters the town limits [from under the Scuppernong River. The site is owned by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as part of its Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge headquarters property. PNG obtained a perpetual easement from FWS for the regulator station site.]

Q. What protocols does the town/county have in place in case of an emergency related to the regulator station?

A. Proper protocols to manage emergency responses related to the regulation station need to be addressed through the local Emergency Management Office coordinating with PNG and local emergency response personnel. If a local resident has a natural gas emergency concern, they need to call 911 or PNG at 1-800-752-7504 and the appropriate authorities will be notified.

Residents’ concerns over “too many leaks on a regular basis” brought this reply: “There have been no leaks detected by PNG at the regulator station. There were two safety valve releases in January 2018. Once the regulator was replaced the issue was resolved. The regulation station has been recently inspected for proper operation and no leaks found.”

Residents complained that “No protocol is in place by PNG or town emergency management for residents in case of an emergency.” PNG’s answer was: “PNG will be meeting with the local fire department and Emergency Management Personnel to offer further training and discuss appropriate concerns related to natural gas.”

Johnny Spencer, chief of Tyrrell Volunteer Fire Department, and Emergency Management Coordinator Wesley Hopkins were present and commented briefly during the discussion.

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