A substantial natural gas leak at a Vectren Energy substation forced the evacuation of the Valero Bloomingburg Ethanol Plant for a little over two hours Monday afternoon.
The substation is located behind the Valero property near the railroad. The leak was reported at 3:44 p.m. and the public was encouraged by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office to stay clear of the area. By approximately 6 p.m., the situation was resolved and the ethanol plant resumed operations.
“A double regulator failed and they switched to a backup regulator for now,” said Melissa Havens, director of the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency. “Nobody needs to worry about the leak now. We’re good to go.”
Before the situation was resolved, Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said the public was asked to stay clear of the area for precautionary reasons.
“Vectren has been on the scene since right before we got here working on the problem,” said Stanforth. “A couple members from the Washington Fire Department were also helping out. The individuals who were working inside were evacuated until further instruction from the plant manager.”
Approximately 43 individuals were working at the plant when the gas leak was reported, according to authorities.
Havens said when this type of situation occurs, her protocol involves calling the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
“The very first phone call I make is to the Ohio EPA,” Havens said. “I get as much information as I can and I call them as soon as I can. That is in case they have to send an officer down, we can get the process started. I also contact my liaison with the Ohio EMA. They can call someone in for us if we need extra resources.”
Nearby residents were not asked to evacuate their homes Monday afternoon.
“The plant was the only evacuation zone,” Havens said.
Valero’s Bloomingburg plant is a biorefinery that sits on approximately 65 acres. It started ethanol production in March 2008. The plant annually processed approximately 46 million bushels of corn into approximately 130 million gallons of denatured ethanol and 385,000 tons of distillers grains co-products.