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W. Va. Floods Create Propane Danger

July 16, 2001

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ Federal contractors arrived Monday to help round up hundreds of flood-damaged fuel oil and propane tanks carried off by flood waters.

Some of the tanks are still filled with fuel ``and we want to make sure they do not get punctures because they are under high pressure and could explode,″ said Patty Fleming, coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s disaster field office in Charleston.

Thunderstorms last week dumped up to 10 inches of rain in the state’s southern coalfields. Floods killed two people and damaged or destroyed at least 3,500 houses, and tanks have been found lodged under bridges, in treetops and among debris piled along small stream banks.

Leaking tanks threaten groundwater and drinking water. Fuel oil contamination can cause headaches and breathing problems, said Dr. Henry Taylor, director of state Bureau for Public Health.

``That is a definite public health hazard,″ Taylor said. ``Not only because of the safety of the building and the potential problems of the building, but fuel oil is permeating the semi-rotten wood.″

Officials said there were probably as many as 150 damaged tanks in just one part of hard-hit Raleigh County.

The problems heighten the need for temporary housing, Gov. Bob Wise said. Twenty-five mobile homes arrived Monday and will be delivered to flood victims beginning Tuesday.

Early estimates placed the damage at about $20 million, but Wise has said that figure is too low.

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