PA Officials Say Emergency Communications Issues Fixed

Communication failures left some emergency agencies uninformed when a Monroe Twp. (PA) natural gas dehydration station allowed more than 5 million cubic feet of gas to vent loudly into the atmosphere the morning after Thanksgiving, reports the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Those “unacceptable” communication gaps have been identified and largely fixed, officials said, but they acknowledged that more needs to be done to inform residents whether a situation is dangerous or simply startling.

“If a resident comes to me and says, ‘Were we in danger?’ and my answer to that is, ‘I don’t know, and I didn’t know,’ that is totally unacceptable,” Wyoming County EMA Director Eugene Dziak said.

The loud venting happened at about 3 a.m. on Nov. 23 at PVR Partners’ Chapin dehydration station on Route 309 near the border of Monroe Twp. in Wyoming County and Dallas Twp. in Luzerne County. The facility is used to strip moisture from gas as it travels from Marcellus Shale wells into interstate pipelines.

It was the third but longest such event since the station was installed, residents at the meeting said.

In the early hours of Black Friday, Luzerne County 911 dispatched the Kunkle Volunteer Fire Company to the site but did not notify the emergency management agency in Wyoming County, where the station is located. That slowed notification of other agencies, including the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Public Utility Commission and Department of Environmental Protection, officials at the meeting said.

A protocol is now in place to make sure notifications happen across counties and agencies, Mr. Dziak said.

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