Prince Frederick, MD – Amid fears that any fire gone awry could imperil hundreds of local residents, the operators of a Calvert County gas plant have promised their employees will be ready to bring a potentially dangerous situation under control. During a presentation to the Calvert County Commissioners Tuesday, Aug. 25, an official with Dominion Cove Point, the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Lusby, indicated steps are being taken to address the safety concerns.
Dominion Cove Point Vice President for LNG Operations Mike Frederick announced plant officials are in the process of forming a “fire brigade” comprised of the facility’s fulltime employees. The brigade, said Frederick, would be formed when the plant’s $3.8 billion liquefaction unit is ready to go online. The unit, which will give the Cove Point plant the capability of exporting LNG to foreign countries, is expected to be completed by late 2017.
“We’re talking about a higher level of training people,” said Frederick. “Safety is always a core value for us. All our employees are trained at emergency response.”
Frederick reminded the commissioners, along with local citizens opposed to the liquefaction project who were at the meeting that “we [Dominion] are not required to do it.”
According to The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers who recruit employees for on-the-job fire brigade responsibilities are required to provide the recruits with proper training and education annually. The employer also must ensure OSHA that each brigade member is physically capable of doing interior structural firefighting. The employee must also provide the brigade recruits with equipment and protective clothing.
Frederick also reported the construction project, which began late last year, is well below OSHA’s recordable incident rate (RIR) average for a construction project.
Additionally, the ongoing problem of soil from the construction site ending up on Cove Point Road is about to abate, Frederick indicated. “We’re essentially done with moving the dirt offsite,” said Frederick.
“The mud has gotten significantly better,” Commissioner Mike Hart [R – District 1] stated.
Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R – District 3] remarked that the need for hauling large amounts of dirt from the project area would not have been necessary if Dominion had not adhered to the Sierra Club’s insistence that it not be placed in a location on Dominion property that is in proximity to the construction site.
Noting that Dominion has heard complaints from area residents about some of the operators of trucks entering and exiting the plant since construction began, Frederick assured the commissioners that truck drivers who break the law are removed from the site.
Frederick reported crews are currently installing a permanent sound wall at the site, a project that is expected to be completed by fall.
Frederick stated that nearly 800 construction workers are currently involved at the work site. Additionally, 18 permanent staffers—plant operators—have recently been hired by Dominion.
During the meeting’s public comment segment, held prior to Frederick’s presentation, project opponents again called on county officials to order a quantitative risk assessment for the plant. One of the citizens, Cynthia Peil of Dunkirk, told the commissioners that a “stop work order” needs to be issued for the liquefaction project until the assessment is completed.
There was no reaction from the commissioners during the public comment segment.
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