South Portland Evaluating Proposal to Add Six 60,000 Above Ground Storage Tanks

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The city of South Portland, Maine is debating whether to permit a liquefied petroleum gas tank farm, taking into account a series of regulations that could potentially hamper those efforts.

The Forecaster reports that several city officials are determining if the city can allow six 60,000-gallon above ground storage tank (AST) units in the Rigby Rail Yard. The tanks, proposed by the Tulsa-based NGL Supply Terminal Co. in February, may violate local ordinances regarding the storage of fuel or hazardous chemicals.

To better evaluate the proposal, the city has hired an independent water systems engineer, Tom Schwartz, to study it. He is expected to issue a report to the city’s Code Enforcement Director Pat Doucette within a week.

Schwartz is a project manager at the water systems engineering firm Woodard and Curran. He will determine whether NGL’s proposal violates any zoning regulations on storing fuel. The proposal was initially approved by the city, since the ASTs would hold liquefied propane. The ordinances mostly concern liquefied petroleum gas, which according to Doucette doesn’t apply to the proposal.

“NGL is not proposing to store gas in excess of 10,000 cubic feet or otherwise (Liquid propane is not measured in cubic feet; it is measured in gallons),” Doucette wrote in a March 11th email to a city official.

South Portland ordinances ban the storage of liquefied gas “in excess of 10,000 cubic feet.” However, because the liquid propane would remain a liquid throughout its storage, Doucette believes the tanks are permissible.

Even if NGL were to get a waiver from the City Council, however, the tanks still cannot be over 50,000 gallons in capacity.
Even if NGL were to get a waiver from the City Council, however, the tanks still cannot be over 50,000 gallons in capacity.

The city does not allow for ASTs to exceed 25,000 gallons in storage capacity unless the City Council grants a waiver. Even if NGL were to get a waiver from the City Council, however, the tanks still cannot be over 50,000 gallons in capacity.

Some citizens and public officials disagree with Doucette’s assessment, claiming it to be inconsistent with the actual ordinances.

“This is a really strange thing that’s happening, about whether something is an interpretation or is it a determination,” said local resident Eben Rose. “This is what the code actually says, and it actually lists propane as one of those storage-limited fuel gases.”

AST units are already under strict regulations from the state and federal governments as well as the American Petroleum Institute, which sets out guidelines for AST construction and maintenance. AST units with 1,100 gallons in capacity of higher, for example, must have corrosion protection on the tank floor during construction.

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