Kent Residents ‘Restless’ for Emergency Warning System

KENT – More than a month after an early morning fire at the Blue Racer Midstream Plant in Marshall County, residents in the nearby Kent community are still waiting for the company to establish an action plan to notify residents during an emergency.

Resident Delbert Wade said about a dozen people from the community met with representatives from Dominion Resources, which operates the plant with Caiman Energy, about three weeks ago to voice their concerns on how the Sept. 21 fire was handled. Several residents reported the neighborhood was not notified in time and almost everyone had to evacuate themselves from the area after seeing the fire in the distance.

Residents have since insisted Dominion install an early warning buzzer system in the community that would emit a loud series of sounds to alert residents to evacuate. However, the community has yet to see any progress on those plans, Wade said.

“If we had some sort of early warning system we wouldn’t have minded, but we had to go out on our own,” Wade said. “That’s not right we had to do that. The neighbors are upset nothing has happened yet. I have people calling me every day wanting to know what’s going on. A lot of them talk about moving and I have to say I have nothing to tell them.”

According to Dominion spokesman Frank Mack, the company plans to take several steps to improve communications with Kent residents, including installing the buzzer system as well as including the town in a local Community Advisory Panel, which consists of representatives from Natrium, Bayer and Axiall, local schools and community members from Proctor and New Martinsville, who meet four times a year to go over concerns and issues within the communities.

Mack said plans for an early warning buzzer system had not been finalized, but said the company plans on meeting with residents again in the near future to communicate more concrete plans to the community.

“That’s something we’ve done in other locations,” he said. “The mode of communication hasn’t been determined, but whether by group meeting, letters or email we are going to make sure their voices are heard.”

However, residents are getting restless waiting for answers, according to Wade. He said the community doesn’t want to end up being the ‘guinea pigs’ for the new plant.

“They seem to be dragging their feet,” Wade said. “What’s to keep it from happening again tonight? The potential is still there. This is a wonderful neighborhood, it would be heartbreaking to move.”

According to Mack, the state and county fire marshals have performed an investigation of the fire and Dominion’s operations center is compiling a report on what was found. He noted Blue Racer Midstream also hired a third-party investigator to determine the root cause, but said nothing is ready to be released.