Propane tank is no small potatoes

I read with interest in Monday’s paper the article about Hurley Brothers application to install a 36,000-gallon propane storage tank at 132 Old Military Road.

The article ends with Mr. Hurley quoted as saying, “This is small potatoes.” I assure you it is not. I was one of the small handful of persons notified of the plan. To be sure, this proposal seems to be moving through the system quickly with minimal public awareness and scant public scrutiny.

I admit, up front, that this is partly a NIMBY (not in my back yard) issue for me because the proposed site is a few yards beyond my tiny back yard. But the issues intrinsic to this proposal go far beyond my self interest and, in fact, should be of concern to the entire Lake Placid community.

I acknowledge that the risk of leak, fire or explosion is small. But I cannot accept Mr. Hurley’s assertion the risk of an incident is one in 34 million. Merely Google “propane storage tank fire” to find multiple examples of serious incidents from tanks of this size.

Of even greater concern is the risk of collision with a fuel vehicle at the proposed site. It is located roughly midway between the Olympic Training Center and the North Elba Showgrounds. It is immediately adjacent to the Hebrew Cemetery on the east. The proposed site entrance is near the base of a hill. Looking west from the entrance you cannot see vehicles approaching until they are about 200 feet away. Nor will approaching vehicles be able to see trucks entering or exiting the site. At typical speeds in excess of 50 mph along that stretch, you can be certain that the risk of collision is somewhat less than 1 in 34 million.

I do understand that we all rely on propane and most of us depend on the reliable and quality service provided by the Hurley Company.

I do understand the efficient operation of a propane delivery service requires a local storage facility like the one proposed. But there already is such a facility currently used by the company in Ray Brook. The Hurley company would prefer not to rent tanks from Hyde Fuel and add a little to their bottom line.

Having been a small businessman for 40 years, I don’t begrudge the Hurley effort to increase its profits. However, it is difficult to conceive a less suitable site for a massive propane tank than the one they are proposing.

Even at very low risk, the potential for a catastrophic accident demands that there is a compelling justification to locate a storage tank at a particular location. There is no such reason in this case. And even if I am wrong with all my objections, two things are certain: area property will be devalued simply because no one wants to live near a propane storage tank, and the Adirondacks are recognized as a special place with unique requirements to preserve its tranquility. This proposal threatens that tranquility.

The only benefit of this site accrues to the Hurley Company. It in no way benefits, and undeniably harms, the nearby residents and organizations and the Lake Placid community at large.

Increased profits are not a legitimate reason to put an entire community at risk, regardless of how small that risk may be. The Adirondacks are beautiful. A propane storage tank is not.

Rather than small potatoes, this is a big deal. There is no question that the Hurley application should be denied by the Joint Review Board.

K. Jon Runstrom is from Lake Placid.

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