Railroad Installing Refueling Station on Wayne Street
Crews work on a new refueling station next to Canadian National train tracks near Wayne Street and Illinois Avenue. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
Work has progressed for several weeks at an out-of-the-way construction site next to the Canadian National Railroad on the intersection of Illinois Avenue and Wayne Street- and the final product will soon become a bit more obvious.
According to Mayor Andrew Halverson, the site will soon be home for two 50,000- gallon diesel tanks for use in the railroad’s fueling and oil recycling station. The tanks, which are about 50 feet in length, are scheduled for delivery sometime on September 30.
Information on the new fuel tanks was scarce last week, as many city officials said they knew nothing about the project. Department of Public Works Director Scott Schatschneider said he only received word early last week that an oversized load would be traveling on city streets, adding such a notification was not uncommon.
“All I know is I had been contacted about bringing tanks in,” Schatschneider said.
But other city officials say they feel they deserved some notification of the fuel tank additions.
When asked if he had any comment on the new refueling station, Alderman Jerry Moore said he knew “nothing about it”.
“The question I have is, when you have this much fuel in an area, what does it do? Is there a risk factor?” Asked Alderman Roger Trzebiatowski. “God forbid any industrial accident happens, but if something did, I don’t know if we have a response.”
Trzebiatowski pointed to heated discussion before the Common Council in July over a 30,000 gallon above- ground liquid propane tank on the Prairie Street property of Cooper Oil. Residents near that business objected to the project due to safety concerns, and Trzebiatowski said this project should have been made public prior to moving forward for the sake of the residents there.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen diesel burn, but it burns a hell of a lot hotter than a lot of other things,” he said. “Within about 200 feet, you’re talking several homes there; and then we’re talking about the underpass not far away, the storm system and the sanitary system of that underpass- there’s a lot of things that for me put a lot of red flags up.”
Halverson on Thursday called the comparison to Cooper Oil “apples and oranges”, saying not only does compressed propane on the Cooper site carry a heavier risk than the railroad’s diesel, but the railroad falls under a different set of rules when it comes to construction.
“First of all, diesel tanks are a state issue, so those would be reviewed by the state,” Halverson said. “Certification of the couplings, what kind of tanks, those kinds of things, would never come before plan commission. Given the flexibility given the railroad by the federal government, I doubt they would have to come before us for much of anything. Railroads in general, as industries in the United States, have the single most flexibility of any industry in the United States. That goes certainly way back to the 1800’s. We would have never had any review of those tanks.”
He also added while Cooper Oil may have been governed by the city’s setbacks and other zoning laws, the railroad is not, but added the city has a “very good relationship” with Canadian National and said there’s a long history of “excellent communication” between the railroad and the city. Requests for comment from Canadian National on Friday were not immediately returned.
When asked why the City Plan Commission or other local elected officials didn’t receive prior notice of the additional tanks, Halverson replied, “Because the city doesn’t have any authority over that; the state and federal government does that. How this is even on your radar, I don’t understand.”
Stevens Point Fire Chief Bob Finn said he’d first heard about the tanks on Thursday morning.
“If you would have called me an hour ago, yours would have been the first phone call I got on this,” Finn told City-Times staff on Thursday. “But that’s not uncommon- we do not approve or issue building permits.”
Finn also said the department will likely do a walkthrough of the site upon completion to familiarize themselves with the layout, but added it’s not a requirement under state law.
“Once it’s there, we maintain it to code, but we have no say so on this being built. As a rule the state approves it,” Finn said.
“We try to train with them (the railroad) once a year regarding potential emergencies, but the tanks they’re putting up over there, I have no idea,” Finn said. “If a situation occurs within our area that requires a significant more training, we will get that training. But as far as a diesel fire goes, yeah, we can handle that. Our guys have been trained for that.”