Orange glow seen in sky around Beaver County cracker plant
MONACA, Pa. (KDKA) — People in Beaver County are concerned after seeing an orange glow in the sky.
Two weeks ago, the mammoth Shell cracker plant in Beaver County went operational after years of planning and construction. On Monday night, Bob Schmetzer with the watchdog group Eyes on Shell captured video of the orange sky.
KDKA-TV viewers posted pictures near the plant and from Brighton Township and Freedom. One man said he saw the glow from Wexford.
The Treemarchis live behind the plant. The Potter Township family is dealing with noise issues and now have air and water concerns.
"We've had this more than once happen," Donna Treemarchi said Tuesday. "This, for some reason, was more strong last night. Our whole neighborhood has been lit up orange."
"This morning in Independence Township when I was driving my bus at 7 in the morning, I'm seeing this big orange glow," Dominick Treemarchi said. "I'm thinking I've never seen that before."
KDKA-TV reached out to Shell on Tuesday but did not get a response. Shell Polymers Monaca posted a statement Monday on its Facebook page, saying:
"This afternoon, Shell Polymers Monaca experienced an issue with our steam generator that resulted in flaring in the site's ground flare system. The primary purpose of the flares is to enable a safe response to equipment malfunctions and the system is working as designed. Flaring is expected to continue through the evening as equipment is returned back to normal operation. We apologize for any inconveniences and are working diligently to minimize the duration of flaring. Safety of our workers, the community and environment are top priorities for Shell Polymers Monaca."
Mark Hogan saw the orange from his Chippewa Township home and came to look at the plant himself.
"The whole time they've been giving us a reassurance that everything is heavily regulated," Hogan said. "How can you assure us that this is safe?"
In the meantime, the Treemarchis are looking into doing their own air monitoring.
"You better be looking into this problem over here. Test the air weekly," Donna Treemarchi said.
KDKA-TV also reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Potter Township's supervisors but did not hear back.
The Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community released a statement, saying:
"Episodes like this are why Clean Air Council and Environmental Integrity Project attorneys fought a two-year legal battle for more stringent flaring regulations than the DEP originally required of Shell. (The DEP permit stopped short of incorporating EPA standards for flaring that required high heating values to ensure flaring emissions were completely destroyed through combustion.) Episodes like this are also why Beaver County residents are joining the monthly Eyes on Shell zooms launched by Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community (BCMAC)."
The plant produces small plastic pellets that can then be shipped to companies manufacturing anything from plastic bags and bottles to diapers, toys and housewares.