Chatham Emergency Services Update

By Carey Ruppert - cruppert@chathamems.org
Chief, Southside Division

Propane Storage Container Update

Most of the propane storage containers on Skidaway Island and those most people are familiar with, are the portable 20-pound propane storage bottles used as a fuel source for gas grills. There is a second type of propane storage tank that usually contains larger quantities of propane and can be situated either aboveground or buried. My focus in this article is on buried propane tanks.

Several years ago, my predecessor informally surveyed Landings residents and found that a small number of buried propane storage tanks are located on property in The Landings and on property outside our gates. Many of these buried tanks are located on the property of older residences that were built before the availability of widespread natural gas lines. Recently, we had a report of a gas leak from a Landings resident. Upon investigation, our firefighters determined that the leak originated from a buried propane tank that was on the property when the current homeowner purchased the home and was no longer in use. Unfortunately, this buried tank still contained a quantity of propane and was in very poor condition.

Underground tanks are subject to severe corrosion conditions from the surrounding soil and naturally occurring electrical currents. For this reason, underground tanks are specially manufactured to withstand those conditions. One of the features included in these tanks is a cathodic protection system to protect against electrical currents, which usually involves an “anode bag” with a magnesium or zinc rod that is electrically connected to the tank. These underground tanks must be inspected and the cathodic systems maintained on a routine basis to prevent corrosion.

If there is an underground propane tank located at your residence, whether installed by you or a prior homeowner, it should be professionally inspected by a propane company and routinely maintained. If the tank no longer is in use, I recommend you have it inspected and have any remaining propane removed.

Propane factoid: Bees, wasps, and flies are attracted to the smell of propane. A propane smell will be present only if there is a propane fuel leak somewhere in your tank or gas line system. Therefore, if you notice some flying insects present around your propane source location, you probably have a propane leak even if you don’t smell it!