Propane Company Moves Storage Tank Underground

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Some Strawberry residents are safer now that Energy West has removed a 7,800-gallon propane storage tank from the southwest corner of Fossil Creek and Fuller roads.


The propane company replaced the tank with a 30,000-gallon underground storage tank nearly three miles from Highway 87 at the end of Fossil Creek Road, near the Arizona Public Service substation.


The above-ground tank provided propane for more than 400 homes in Strawberry, Energy West Vice President Doug Mann said.


It was nestled between concrete pillars near a Gila County equipment parking area and four banks of residential mailboxes.


Nearby neighbors said they've complained for years that the tank worried them and the propane delivery trucks were noisy.


"I was worried if that damn thing blew up we'd never live to tell the tale," Vivian Myers, who lives a quarter of a mile from the tank, said.


"If they are moving it, good," she said. "We are thrilled to tears."


The tank removal was sparked last spring when Energy West asked Pine-Strawberry Fire Marshal John Arljen for permission to replace the tank with a bigger one.


"I said 'No'" Varljen said. "I suggested they look for a place in west Strawberry -- a remote location -- to install the tank. My recommendation was to put it underground to increase the safety."


In the event something punctures the tank it can explode, he said. If the tank in Strawberry were to explode, it would level many of the nearby homes.


"The tank itself is a hazard," he said. "There is a remote possibility you could have a propane explosion. It could take out a square block."


Mann said, however, that the chances of the tank exploding were slim.


"The structural integrity of those tanks is so strong, they are designed to prevent that kind of activity," he said.


"Even though they are fairly safe, we don't want those large tanks right in the middle of a residential area, especially increased to a 30,000-gallon tank," Varljen said.


When the tank was installed in the late '70s or early '80s, Strawberry was sparsely populated, Varljen and Mann said, but the town has grown and now, both men agree, the safest place for a large propane storage tank is underground.


Energy West installed the larger tank to cut down on refueling trips between Payson and Strawberry.


Before the new tank was installed, an Energy West truck would have to travel between Payson and Strawberry at least twice a week to keep the tank full, Mann said.


"We go through 1,000 gallons a day (in Strawberry)," he said.


With the 30,000 gallon tank in place, Mann said a transport truck will fill it once a week during the winter and maybe once during the summer.

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