Make plans public

Some Belmont village officials are concerned that members of the public are not aware of first responders’ plans to handle a major disaster.

The issue came up during a village council meeting last week, when fire department Lt. Kaye

Hall reported on a minor fire that happened on May 30 at EQT Corp’s Walking Tall well pad on Water Tower Road, just outside the village limits.

The blaze did not result in any threat to the public; a tank at the site caught fire and workers on site extinguished the flames even before fire department personnel arrived. But Belmont Mayor Stan Sobel questioned what steps would have been taken in the event of a major problem at a well site.

After all, several well pads can be seen from within the village, and the fire department estimates that there are 25 wells within 1 mile of the community.

The Walking Tall pad is one of a series of well sites that stretches down Water Tower Road and across Noon Road toward Bethesda. Those wells, along with many others that are nearby, are in various stages of development, with some already producing regularly and others just being drilled or fracked. With that number of operations taking place, odds are petty good that some significant incident eventually will occur.

Hall responded that emergency agencies throughout Belmont County have a comprehensive response plan.

“All we have to do is make a phone call and everything starts rolling,” she said.

We have seen that happen at Powhatan Point, where an XTO well fire last year led to a large number of area residents being evacuated for weeks.

“I think it would be a good idea if (the public) knew what to look for,” Councilman Dan Scott commented.

It would.

Informing area residents throughout our gas-rich area about details of emergency plans would be appropriate. Local government officials should make that happen.