Bent Mountain residents say work on pipeline right-of-way is a fire danger

Bent Mountain Residents Say Pipeline Work Causes Fire Risk
Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 8:18 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Standing in the woods, just a few steps from the pipeline right-of-way, you can hear the whine of the equipment, and see a plume of smoke rising from the burn pit.

The contractor doing the work for the Mountain Valley Pipeline has a permit, but residents of the area say the fire has been left unattended at times, and workers have failed to fulfill other requirements.

Kathy Chandler is a landowner whose property lies in the path of the pipeline.

“It continues to concern me that it seems like it’s up to the landowner to monitor whether that fire is extinguished at night with a layer of dirt, and whether or not it’s truly unattended because we found it three times like that,” Chandler told WDBJ7.

Residents who live near the path of the pipeline say it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

“Look around Bent Mountain, it’s all trees,” said Ann Kovats. “That’s what you see, we’re all connected by trees. And one mishap with a fire and it can run all through Bent Mountain. And again, sprinkled in all of these trees are homes. It’s a huge concern.”

Following complaints from residents, Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Chief Steve Simon says the Fire Marshal did find deficiencies in the burn pit Saturday, and suspended the permit until he could discuss the concerns with workers on Monday.

“You know in this case, they didn’t follow our rules, so we’re taking a little bit sterner approach with them,” Simon said Tuesday morning.

Residents say the county was slow to respond to their concerns, and they want officials to do more, but Simon said the department doesn’t have the resources to observe the operation 24/7.

“And we will be monitoring,” Simon said, “but we do not have the capability, the resources to have a fire marshal sit on the scene the entire time. And we do not do that with other businesses. That goes for any type of permitting process.”

A spokesperson for MVP said the company will review the situation and take corrective action if it finds protocols were not followed.

Natalie Cox said MVP contractors obtained a burn permit and “will follow all regulations to ensure they remain in compliance with the permit.”

In an email, she said MVP’s safety plan “requires us to maintain a fire watch throughout the entire time that a fire is burning; and at the end of each day, crews extinguish the fire in preparation for start-up the next day.”

Chief Simon said the Fire Marshal will now check each pit before burning begins and the department will use drones to spot check the operation.

Residents remain on high alert.

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