Residents of the small Kent community along W.Va. 2 in southern Marshall County who were not asleep late on the night of Sept. 21 learned of an emergency at the nearby Blue Racer Midstream Plant only when they looked outside and saw the glow of flames or were alerted by neighbors. No public warning system was in place at the gas processing facility.
More than six weeks later, there still is no procedure for letting nearby residents know about problems at the plant. That has some of them upset.
One, Delbert Wade, told our reporter some of his neighbors are "upset nothing has happened yet." We don't blame them.
The Sept. 21 fire at the plant, owned by Dominion Resources and Caiman Energy, was extinguished quickly. No serious injuries were reported. An investigation of the cause is in progress.
Dominion spokesman Frank Mack told our reporter the company wants to be a good neighbor to Kent residents. A community advisory panel is to be established, he explained. And a loud warning buzzer will be installed at the facility.
Plans still are being made for the buzzer, Mack added.
Industrial safety is complicated business. Even the process of alerting nearby residents, plant workers and emergency services of problems has many ramifications. For example, when should an emergency signal be sounded? Clearly, minor accidents unlikely to affect anyone outside a plant are not cause to alert neighbors.
But installing a loud buzzer or siren and deciding to activate it when a serious emergency occurs should not take long or cost much. Wade and other Kent residents have every right to expect Dominion to do that - as quickly as possible.