By Frances Ruth HarrisMILFORD — The compressor upgrade long dreaded by many local residents is underway in Milford, with workers on 12-hour shifts and a steady procession of dump and delivery trucks going back and forth.
During a special township meeting on Feb. 17, Milford Roadmaster Gary Williams said the township had directed its lawyer, Anthony Magnotta, to send a letter to Columbia Gas stressing that it's the company's responsibility to fix and maintain township roads. He said there's no guarantee Columbia will reply.
Township officials said they are proud of their record of getting Columbia Gas to compensate the township for wear and tear on local roads. Now, the company's heavy duty trucks are bumping up the magnitude of the problem. Some loads are extremely heavy, with tons of steel rods being trucked to the site.
The compressor, located at 216 Fire Tower Rd., is surrounded by a barrier. Columbia says it's a sound barrier that protects nearby houses from construction noise. Houses are not clearly visible from the site, although a few are tucked in the woods nearby.
Some residents say the barrier is really there to protect workers from hearing the protesters who come to the site regularly. Still others say the barrier prevents citizens from seeing what's really going on.
A Columbia Gas employee told the Courier that pictures could only be taken from the road. There wasn't much noise that day, although enormous cranes did pop up past the sound barrier.
A Columbia Gas inspector who declined to give his name said access was blocked to prevent members of the public from falling on mud and ice. He lifted a foot to show the big boots and large cleats needed to negotiate the work site safely.
"Look at these trucks," he said of the vehicles going to and fro. "The men driving these trucks did not have jobs prior to this project. These are all local drivers from local companies who are working because Columbia Gas is building for the future here in Milford and America. And know that the pollution from the old plant did not have to follow the new guidelines that the new plant will have to follow. It's a win-win for everyone, as long as citizens want to be able to effectively flip the switch in America."
When Columbia Gas got a permit from the township to put up a new building, many believed it was simply to replace its old building, now more than 50 years old. But the new building involves a sizable expansion, and will contain two significantly more powerful turbines.
The compressor needs extra capacity to process the bounty of natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale by means of hydrofracking, a controversial deep-drilling technique. Gas compressors increase the pressure of gas by reducing its volume.