|Posted by Anne Siren on March 5, 2013 at 3:00 PM|
By Judy Vik
Lauderdale-By-The-Sea - Firefighters and HazMat teams averted a major disaster last week when an abandoned underground propane tank began leaking. According to Fire Chief Judson Hopping, the tank was supposed to be empty, but was found to be nearly full. It had been used to heat the pool at the Ocean Bay Club, 5555 N. Ocean Drive, but was covered with concrete when an electric pool heater was installed in 2006.
“It was an ever-changing, ever-evolving situation and kept getting bigger as we found out more information,” Hopping said.
The leak was stopped about 10 hours after being reported at 1:10 p.m. Feb. 21. Then a ‘wick’ was set up to burn off the gas vapor. HazMat and a fire department suppression team remained on the scene until about noon Friday when all the propane was removed from the tank. It could have been a “very explosive situation,” Hopping said.
When crews began chopping the concrete, the gas sparked and flamed up. It burned for an hour and a half before they could go back to work. “If it had blown up, nearby residents would have died,” the chief said.
About 75 residents were evacuated from the Ocean Bay Club and from homes on the south side of Sea Ranch Lakes.
During the incident, A1A was closed to traffic, the southbound lane until Friday morning.
Another abandoned tank at the condo was found at a second pool and was removed from the property.
An investigation is being conducted.
Commissioner Stuart Dodd asked if the condo could be billed for the cost of the response. Hopping said not for the first responders. The town attorney is looking into the possibility of billing for the HazMat response.