Capitol Heights fuel tank sparks change in storage rules -- Gazette.Net






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New rules limiting fuel storage tanks’ proximity to homes is being applauded by one neighborhood as a step forward, although some say the legislation doesn’t go far enough.

The Prince George’s County Council unanimously approved a bill April 16 that prohibits above-ground bulk storage tanks for diesel fuel and other flammable liquids from being within 300 feet of a residence, school, playground, library or hospital, and limits their size to 660 gallons.

Councilman Derrick L. Davis (D-Dist. 6) of Mitchellville introduced the bill in response to complaints from the Capitol Heights neighborhood of Westhampton, which is located about 100 feet away from a transportation company’s 10,000-gallon fuel tank.

“It’s interfering with the quality of life for residents,” Renee Holliday, president of the Westhampton Association, said of the white tank near the neighborhood.

The fuel tank, which is 20 feet long and 4 feet high, is owned by Challenger Transportation of Gaithersburg. Westhampton residents said the tank is an eyesore that threatens to lower property values.

“I don’t think it should be in a neighborhood, period,” said Westhampton resident Millee Payton, explaining that she believes 300 feet is still too close for a large tank. “A tank of that size shouldn’t be above ground.”

The legislation still was lauded by Holliday as an improvement as it applies a cap on tank size and places tanks farther away from residences.

Davis said the legislation also is part of a push for the county planning department to address design guidelines, physical buffers and noise reduction for industrial businesses located near residential areas.

Since the Challenger site opened near Westhampton in 2009, residents have complained of noise from Challenger performing maintenance and accused Challenger of adopting safety measures reactively, such as putting up guards around the tank only after residents complained, Holliday said.

Challenger president David Mohebbi denied the allegations and said the company has done everything to standard or better.

Prince George’s law allows existing tanks to remain if the fire chief confirms their safety and issues a variance. While Challenger originally had a variance, it was revoked because Challenger vacated the property in November, said Linda Lowe, spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Resources.

Challenger left because its contract ended, but it plans to return in the next few months and fill the tank, Mohebbi said.

The company will need to undergo inspections and apply for permits to use the tank, said Samantha Kappalman, Maryland Department of the Environment spokeswoman.

Holliday said she supports the legislation, even though it may not remove the tank near her community.

“Nobody else should have to go through this,” Holliday said.

The bill was sent to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) for signature within 10 days of the vote and can be enacted within 45 days, if Baker signs off on it.