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Rush zoners approve Air Products special exception

Published March 23. 2011 05:00PM

The Rush Township Zoning Hearing Board reorganized on Tuesday.

The board will remain the same, with Wayne Postupack serving as Chairman and Thomas Klein remaining Vice Chairman. Catherine Schimpf remains the third member, while Kevin Leitzel and Michelle Griffiths serve as alternate members.

The entire board met on Tuesday with officials from Air Products & Chemicals to take action on Special Exception No. 22211-1 regarding the proposed Ammonia Plant Expansion. Kyle Kehoe, an engineer with Alfred Benesch & Company, was also in attendance for the township.

Air Products & Chemicals has plans for an expansion of its existing ammonia purification system, duplicating and doubling the current capacity. Officials from the company discussed the sketch plan with the zoning hearing board and addressed questions and concerns.

Potential safety risks of the expansion were immediately addressed. Air Products officials relayed the numerous safeguards that are in place, including automatic shut down valves, an ammonia detection system, a mechanical integrity program, and numerous other regulations that the company must comply with.

In the event of a failure in the system, an ammonia leak would be the worst case scenario and any impact offsite would be minimal. Under the ultimate case submitted by Air Products as part of their risk management program (RMP), the concentration would be within an estimated 0.3 mile radius. After this point, there would no longer be a safety risk for the surrounding public.

Although similar in nature to the existing ammonia purification system, the expansion would be independent. A failure in one would not affect the other. Even more, if a failure was bad enough, officials said that other operations of the company could be shut down if necessary.

Board members also asked the officials about combustion risks. With a very limited flammable range, DOT classifies anhydrous ammonia as nonflammable. Still, for extra safety, Air Products will still treat the loading zone as a potentially flammable area.

After further questioning and giving the audience a chance to address their concerns, the board approved the special exception application. A 30 day appeal process will now begin before any construction can begin.

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