Concerns Raised Over ‘Superload’

MARSHALL COUNTY – Some people living in the path of the Williams Energy de-ethanizer’s route are not sure how the massive machine is going to make it from the Benwood CSX rail yard to the Fork Ridge Road Oak Grove facility without causing some problems along the way.

However, representatives from county offices and the company are working to ensure the move is done safely.

The 41-yard-long device that weighs 510,000 pounds and is 14 feet wide is set to depart from Benwood aboard its modular platform trailer at 8 a.m. Thursday, according to Williams spokeswoman Helen Humphreys. At a top speed of 5 mph, the “superload” likely will not reach its destination until Sunday.

Humphreys said the de-ethanizer is the largest single piece of equipment Williams has moved in Marshall County. She said the machine’s intricate construction pattern required that workers build it in Houston, Texas, rather than on-site at Oak Grove.

Plans call for the de-ethanizer to sit at Butch’s Corner at the intersection of W.Va. 86 and W.Va. 88 on Thursday night; at the Mountaineer Mart in Pleasant Valley on Friday night; and at the area commonly known as the McElroy substation along Fork Ridge Road on Saturday night before making the final leg of its trek to Oak Grove.

Dave Smith, transportation supervisor for Marshall County Schools, said his first notice about the de-ethanizer move came from reading the newspaper Sunday.

“They are right on our main routes,” he said. “If I can’t get kids home, parents are going to be all over me.”

Smith said the Division of Highways informed him Tuesday that school buses should be able to make it around the superload on Thursday and Friday with the assistance of the law enforcement officers escorting it along its journey.

“It is my understanding that school buses will be able to get through,” Humphreys said.

Meanwhile, some people – like Robert Coffield of Pleasant Valley – are concerned emergency vehicles will have issues maneuvering around the superload.

“I think they will have it hung up everywhere,” he said. “I don’t see how they are going to get it around these turns. What if an ambulance has to get through?”

Tom Hart, Marshall County Emergency Management director, said ambulances and other emergency vehicles should not have too much difficulty because law enforcement officials will constantly monitor the superload’s progress.

“If there is a need for an ambulance, they will send a unit from the other side of the load to avoid it,” he said.

Despite the plans that are in place to alleviate potential problems, Carla Ralbusky of Sherrard said she worries that road or bridge damage could occur from such a heavy piece of equipment.

“These roads are already in terrible shape,” she said. “These companies should be paying for the repairs, with all the money they are making here. (W.Va.) 86 is really bad.”

Brent Walker, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Williams would be liable for any damage.

“We have worked with Williams Energy. They are following protocol,” he said. “Their route is covered in the road use permit they have with us.”