Are we ever really safe anywhere in this world? Probably not.
Dan Weikel - Los Angeles Times 2:43 p.m. PDT, October 26, 2011
"Citing the pipeline explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno last year, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry wants to review the safety of a giant propane and butane storage facility in San Pedro that has been controversial for decades.
The 40-year-old facility, which can store about 25 million gallons of liquefied petroleum gas, is one of the largest and oldest facilities of its type in the United States. Its two 80-foot-tall tanks are located along North Gaffey Street about 1,000 feet from homes. Playing fields and shopping centers are even closer.
Though the owner, Rancho LPG Holdings, has done a risk analysis, Perry says an independent review is necessary and wants the council’s public safety committee to address concerns raised by citizens' groups in the harbor area.
The review, which Perry proposed at Tuesday’s council meeting, would require the Fire Department, emergency management department, building department, and the city attorney’s office to prepare reports on the storage facility. The matter was referred to the public safety committee for further consideration.
While the San Pedro neighborhood is not in Perry’s district, she is running for mayor next year. And the region has had no council representative since Janice Hahn was elected to Congress. A special election to fill the seat is scheduled for Nov. 8.“Perry’s call for an independent analysis is an extremely critical factor in our effort to achieve a comprehensive study of the facility,” said Janet Shaaf-Gunter of San Pedro and Peninsula Homeowners United. Community activists have gathered a trove of historical and regulatory documents showing, among other things, that the city permitted the original owner to build the tanks under an industrial zoning dating to World War II. Other city records and geological maps show the tanks are very close to the active Palos Verdes fault, in an area known for methane gas and unstable ground.
Much of the controversy has revolved around dramatically different predictions of the damage that a fire or explosion at the facility could cause. The company’s worst-case scenario states that the impact would extend no more than a few tenths of a mile, while other assessments claim the damage radius could extend up to 6.8 miles."
One estimate I've read in years past stated that in the event these tanks go up, the resulting firestorm that follows the explosion will take out just about everything habitable from the ocean to the 405 Freeway in the north due to the location of numerous refineries spread throughout San Pedro, Wilmington and Carson. Rumors I've heard say that the LAFD
's downtown disaster planners have written off the entire swath of ground as indefensible.
HazardsBeGone.com said back in 2010:
"A recent "Risk Analysis" of this facility estimates a blast radius from an EXPLOSION at Rancho LPG could exceed 6.7 miles!!! Within a 3-mile radius we estimated there are 20 elementary schools, 9 high schools, 2 hospitals, 9 LAFD and LAPD stations, the Coast Guard HQ, Harbor College, the Vincent Thomas Bridge, 110 Freeway, the Port of LA, many churches, and thousands of homes and businesses."
Where does the Port of Los Angeles
stand in all this you ask? Well according to LA County Tax records the tanks sit on a parcel of land valued at $19M and owned solely by Rancho LPG Holdings LLC in Houston, TX. The Port has no say in the matter. Some short-sighted politicians at The City of Los Angeles permitted the lands use as a gas storage terminal some many years ago and now here we are.
The facility itself is made up of two parts. One is the storage facility on Gaffey,which includes two 12 million gallon refrigerated storage tanks and has truck, pipeline and rail shipping capabilities. The second part of the operation is the dock at Berth 120. The entire purpose of Rancho's facility is basically to store liquid butane from the refineries and take it out of the area.
At one time the stored gas used to flow through Port controlled pipelines that connects the liquid butane storage facility to Berth 120. It is a 16” pipeline that is buried 10 feet under the ground for loading and off loading tanker ships. While this seemed like a pretty safe way to handle this part of the operation, inexplicably, the Port allowed Rancho's lease on the pipelines to expire back in 2004 thereby relegating transportation of the gas to above ground modes via tanker truck (30-40 truckloads per day) and rail car tankers (1200 per season). Just what we needed, more hazardous materials moving on our local streets and through our residential communities. Not to mention what the additional truckloads will do to our already disastrous air quality.
What happens in the event of an earthquake, liquefaction, human error, accident, equipment failure or sabotage? To put it plainly, we're screwed.
The recent San Bruno gas explosion has again stirred emotions in a debate that involves vastly different scenarios of the destruction that could be caused by a fire, explosion or terrorist attack. News of outdated construction standards and lax government oversight in the San Bruno pipeline tragedy have San Pedro residents once again questioning the official assurances that the tanks have been inspected, tested and are safe.
Anthong G. Patchett studied the Rancho LPG Holdings facility for Cornerstone Technologies last October and prepared a Quantative Risk Analysis of his own. Their study "dispels the myth of the Risk Analysis prepared for Rancho LPG Holdings that concludes only a .5 mile radius would be affected. They further concluded that no site in the United States is as vulnerable as the Rancho LPG Holdings Petrolane Storage Facility at 2110 Gaffey Street, San Pedro, California
Opponents of the North Gaffey storage facility are still waving a 1,242 page federal report issued more than 30 years ago questioning the safety of gas storage sites like the one in San Pedro. The report doubted the adequacy of local building codes for such projects and recommended all new facilities be built underground and away from populated areas.
I don't know about you, but the 1960's cold war bomb shelters many folks had in their back yards are looking like they may make a comeback. Look for them to be coming soon from the local Home Depot at Gaffey and Westmont.The author has lived with his family for the last 33 years in his North San Pedro home less than 5 tenths of a mile from the storage tanks. The photo included in this article was taken by the author from his backyard.Related articles