Plan for 6.7-million-gallon fuel tank has nearby condo fired up [1-27-16]

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Larry Barszewski

Published January 27, 2016

It’s no surprise that huge fuel tanks and family neighborhoods don’t mix. But the two get pretty close to each other by Port Everglades’ massive tank farm, which stores fuel delivered daily by tankers.

While they have co-existed peacefully for decades, a new plan has raised old fears about the danger an explosion might cause.

Marathon Petroleum Company wants to build a 200,000-barrel tank that will store 6.7-million gallons of gasoline about 90 feet from the Village East condominiums near Southeast 10th Avenue and 20th Street.

Some condo residents oppose it, saying there’s not enough protection from a blast and not enough deterrents to stop a determined terrorist seeking to cause a catastrophe.

But the tank farm was there first. One oil company, Coastal Fuels, opposed the residential project when it came before the city for approval in 1998, concerned the development might later object to its plans to add storage tanks on its site to the east.

Then-mayor Jim Naugle agreed the development was a bad idea. The project’s developer, Jack Loos, promised he would not oppose the company’s plans to add storage tanks in the future, saying the proximity of tanks would not be a health or safety threat.

But now the 264-unit Mediterranean Village townhome apartments Loos built are the Village East condominiums, many owner-occupied.

“Our safety comes first. This is pure explosive gasoline at our front door,” Village East homeowner Ivonne Aznarez told city commissioners Wednesday. “It’s going to be their largest gasoline holding tank.”

Marathon officials said the new tank is needed because of increased fuel demands in the region. They said their security plans meet or exceed Port Everglades and Coast Guard regulations and standards. They have also taken steps to improve security around the perimeter by “cleaning fence lines and reducing/improving access points.”

The operations are manned round-the-clock by company employees or security guards with frequent perimeter inspections, company officials said.

Aznarez challenged those statements.

“Anybody can come into the community and jump the fence. It’s never manned,” she said. “It’s like fighting Goliath. We’re the little people.”

Not all neighbors are opposed. Marilyn Mammano, president of the Harbordale Civic Association that includes Village East, said her organization is not taking a position on the proposed tank.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office Fire Marshal and the city fire department did not object to Marathon’s plans.

Commissioners deferred action until their March 15 meeting to give the company time to meet with Village East residents to see if some agreement can be reached to address their concerns.