Polk requests public hearing on Mill Spring gas compressor station

Published 8:00 am Thursday, May 10, 2018

Residents express concern; company presents process

MILL SPRING — After hearing from seven residents who expressed concern over a compressor station under construction off Silver Creek Road in Mill Spring by PSNC Energy, the Polk County Board of Commissioners has called for the department of environmental quality to hold a public hearing.

Commissioners met Monday and heard from several residents concerned about the health and safety impacts of the facility, particularly because it is being constructed near Polk County Middle School. Commissioners also heard a presentation from PSNC officials, including Andrew Moore, PSNC general manager of project engineering and construction.

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Mill Spring resident Irene LeCourt said the DEQ needs to host a public hearing on the issue.

Irene LeCourt

“In particular, [for] the parents and children attending Polk Middle School, which is only 1,700 feet from this facility,” LeCourt said.

She asked exactly what PSNC is building, how the station will be monitored and the company’s plans for if the plant catches on fire or has an accident.

LeCourt said she is concerned for students at the middle school and asked if the county has resources if there is an accident.

“Will there be buildings to house these compressors to mitigate the noise and the odor?” LeCourt asked.

Green River Cove Road resident Liz Malloy also asked for the county to request a DEQ public hearing, “so that the public can hear more about the project, the impacts, the safety issues.”

Mill Spring resident Donna Marcotte asked for a public hearing as well, saying she knows nothing about the project and that she is very concerned about the station’s proximity to the school, “especially the health risk to 550 children who attend that school.”

Keith Viglietta said he lives in Mill Spring, just a couple miles from the site and would also like a public hearing.

Gray Jernigan asked about permitting and said he is concerned about emission limits.

County Manager Marche Pittman said the DEQ schedules the public hearing; all the county can do is request they hold a public hearing.

George Ratchford, PSNC vice president of operations, said the company was formed in 1938 and takes pride in being a good member of the community. Ratchford said PSNC has been in the community since the 1960s, and has employees who live in Polk County.

Moore said this project began in 2016 with 25 miles of transmission pipeline from Mill Spring to Arden. This year is the fourth phase of the project, which calls for the installation of compressor stations in Mill Spring, as well as Kings Mountain, he said.

The station currently under construction is located approximately 1 mile west of the intersection of highways 9 and 108 on Silver Creek Road, on approximately 22 acres. Moore said the station is being built on 5 acres of the property.

The station itself will have three enclosed compressors, as well as an office control building on site, the general manager said.

“It’s not as big of a facility as people think it could be or might be,” Moore said.

He also said there have been concern over air quality and noise controls, but the air quality is regulated under the Clean Air Act, which protects the public and environment through its standards.

Moore said PSNC’s facility is considered a minor facility classification, similar to hospitals, rock quarries, concrete and asphalt plants.

“Mission Hospital probably burns as much gas as this compressor station,” he said.

The manager also said there are no state or local ordinances related to noise regulation. PSNC has self-imposed noise limits to not exceed an average of 55 decibels at the nearest noise-sensitive area, he said.

“We know the station is going to make noise and has the potential to be loud,” Moore said.

PSNC has already done some noise modeling analysis at the site, with one decibel reading being 65, so PSNC officials knew that was too loud and added sound controls.

The loudest part of the site is turbine engines, so the company has added silencers, he said.

Moore also said PSNC is going to leave the compressors pressurized all the time so there will not be a blow down event, and has also tried to maximize the amount of piping that is underground so it cannot be heard.

On the proximity to the middle school, Moore said the site should be around a 33-decibel reading at the school.

“They should hear it,” Moore said. “Modeling has been done with all three compressors operating 24 hours a day, 365 days.”

He added that only one or two compressors will be running at a time, with the third available as a backup compressor.

Commissioner Myron Yoder asked how many compressors PSNC has at the existing station on Silver Creek Road. Moore said there is currently one, but it is a larger compressor than the ones going in at the new site.

“The protection of the environment is very important to our company,” Moore said.

He added that PSNC was recently recognized with an environmental champion award.

Commissioners unanimously decided to send a letter to the DEQ requesting a public hearing on the project. Details of that public hearing have not yet been made.