From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 9, Number 11 - June 2, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Council: Chemical storage OK in town limits

by Mari Muzzi

A Pinedale resident and the owner of a Baker-Petrolite chemical storage facility argued over issues of chemical storage on town property during the Pinedale Town Council meeting on May 26.

The council met for the second time to address Pinedale resident Linda Baker’s concerns about a Baker-Petrolite facility, located at 240 S. Bridger.

Storage owner Gil Winters defended his operations during the meeting.

“My attorney advised me to come here and get it on record that if this doesn’t stop he’s going to look at it as harassment,” Winters said.

But Baker said she is worried about human safety, since many of the chemicals being held are flammable.

“I am very concerned about the possibility of an accident of a fire nearby that could cause a spark leading to an explosion with toxic vapors that could potentially kill many people who may live or work downwind or in the neighborhood,” she said on Thursday.

Baker is also apprehensive about the chemicals and said many are considered harmful to human health.

A few of the chemicals found at the storage facility include a FM0600 foamer, a corrosion inhibitor, DMO146 demulsifier and xylene, all of which can cause damage to the central nervous system, unconsciousness and even death with prolonged exposure, according to a material safety data sheet Baker received from Baker-Petrolite.

Methanol, which can be absorbed through the skin and cause irritation to the lungs, is also being stored in the building.

Many of the chemicals can also cause problems to the liver, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracks. The safety data sheet also states that the chemical xylene might cause cancer.

“This is a grave danger to the people who live close to this facility,” Baker said. “It’s going to be hard to avoid some very serious consequences should there be a fire near the area.”

The material safety data sheet also states that some of the chemicals can create vapors, which could flow along surfaces to a distant ignition source and then flash back.

Baker said the facility is close to two private residences and across the street from a church.

“I pointed out to the council that this facility is in an area that is zoned commercial; because of the nature of the chemicals being stored it would be more appropriate if (the storage facility) was in an area zoned industrial,” she said. “I don’t think it was an unreasonable request.”

Winters defended the zoning of his operation saying he has taken safety precautions by installing 24-hour security and having the building inspected by the county fire department.

“When we purchased the building, they said it was deemed as a commercial warehouse,” he said. “We looked at the codes and said it fits.”

Winters said there is also an automatic ventilation system, which will turn on should a problem arise.

“Now, the use (of the building) is very low – there are one to two vehicles there a couple times a week and no sign traffic, no parking in front, no garbage collecting around,” he said.

Winters told the council his company has put $125,000 into the operation.

“We didn’t even need to do that; we did it to be a good neighbor,” he said. “There’s very little concern – you can’t safeguard everything, but that building is safer now than probably any other building in the town of Pinedale.”

Councilman David Smith said he personally would prefer the facility to be elsewhere.

“I wish the site was somewhere else, I’ll make that clear right now,” he said. “But, I don’t think it’s the town’s position to tell (Winters) that (he) can’t have it (there).”

The council members agreed with Councilman Smith, since Winters had received permission from the previous town council.

“And did it go through proper channels?” Baker asked. “My point being that I believe the (previous business) was property zoned for commercial and now the use has changed to industrial and it should be property sited.”

Mayor Smith and the council members said a representative of the town told Winters he could have a chemical storage facility on the location and changing the decision would be unfair to Winters.

“Your point is very well taken, but I think all we can do is learn from it,” Mayor Smith said. “I think it’s very clear that none of us like the fact that it’s there.”

Baker said she was disappointed with the council’s decision.

“I can’t believe that they would be so unconcerned with human health and safety,” she said.

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