Pellet fire community meeting tonight at 6

Published 5:17 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Port Arthur environmental group will host a meeting over the ongoing pellet fire tonight at the Westside Development Center.

The Port Arthur Environmental Justice Coalition’s chairman, John Beard, said he hopes the community forum will be a chance for residents to get some answers.

“The point of the meeting is to really essentially bring the community together in terms of understanding what has gone on with this and what has transpired so we’ll have better communication with our elected officials and those who serve us in the city,” said Beard.

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The fire, at the German Pellets pellet silo at the port, broke out on Easter Sunday in April and has been smoldering since then. Residents near the area have reportedly suffered ill health due to the smoke. In addition, Fire Chief Larry Richard said the fire could take weeks to extinguish.

Beard said he’s worried about how that will be done.

“We are concerned as to how they’re going to put this fire out,” he said.

To that end, Beard said he invited Richard and the city manager and he’s hoping some members of the city council show up, too.

Beard said he wants to know how the pellets will be removed safely. He pointed out that a smoldering fire is a fire without a flame, and he worries if the silo is opened, the added oxygen could fuel the fire and set off a serious blaze.

“It might burn explosively,” he said. “It could potentially explode. We want to be aware of what’s going on and then ask logical sensible questions.”

Beard said the company, German Pellets, could be liable for the health issues he said residents have suffered.

The company is in bankruptcy, and Beard explained residents would likely have to go through the courts to get resolution.

“There’s only certain ways you can address a company that is in bankruptcy and that is through the courts. So, we’re going to explore how you go about doing that,” he said.

Beard added that the company could still have insurance on the property.

“Just because they’re in bankruptcy doesn’t mean the facility isn’t insured,” he said. “They have to protect their interest, and so naturally they have insurance.”

At the end of the day, he said, he just wants his community to be safe and healthy in their homes.

“The community is tired of it and we don’t want to see it happen any more,” he said.

The meeting kicks off at 6 p.m. The Westside Development Center is located at 601 West Dr. Ransom Howard St.