For decades the subject of debate in San Pedro, metal tanks that store liquid chemicals and fuel in the greater Harbor Area were the subject of a Los Angeles City Council Public Safety Committee meeting Wednesday night.
Residents, preparing for the meeting, were eager to have their say.
"This has the potential for killing thousands and thousands of people," said Janet Gunter.
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"We feel like we're fighting for lives," added Jody James.
Two tanks in particular, which are operated by Rancho LPG and store liquefied petroleum gas at 2110 N. Gaffey St. (map), have come in for on-again-off-again scrutiny by surrounding residents concerned about the storage facility's safety.
Recent public debate over the tanks prompted City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the Harbor Area, to call for a special committee meeting to hear from regulators responsible for those tanks and many more.
"The spotlight has been put up on Rancho, but within 2 miles of where the meeting is going to be, there are 250 other tanks, not including Terminal Island," said Buscaino's spokesman Branimir Kvartuc. "So what we're talking about is all of these thanks."
Kvartuc said Buscaino, who has family living near the tanks, has not taken sides in the debate. The meeting, Kvartuc said, is a "fact-finding mission."
"The residents that are complaining about the tanks, they simply say, 'Get rid of them.' But you can't just come in and tell somebody who owns a business or is on private property to move out," Kvartuc said.
The 6 p.m. meeting was held at nearby Taper Avenue Elementary School, 1824 Taper Ave., San Pedro (map). Attendees were allowed to give 1-minute public comments after testimony was received by the committee, according to city rules.
For those who could attend, the meeting was streamed live on Buscaino's website.
The council committee was not slated to take any action, but merely to hear from representatives of local, state and federal agencies that have some oversight over above- and below-ground storage tanks in the greater Port of Los Angeles area.
The Rancho LPG facility was built in 1973. It contains two 12.5-million gallon refrigerated tanks filled with butane.
Nearby residents worry that an explosion on the site could see devastating consequences for homes within a 6.7-mile blast radius, which would include neighborhoods in San Pedro, the tony Palos Verdes Peninsula, Long Beach, Torrance and beyond.
Renewed fears about the safety of the tanks was prompted in part by the 2010 pipeline explosion in the Bay Area suburb of San Bruno.
In February, Los Angeles Unified School District board member Richard Vladovic, who represents the area, asked Gov. Jerry Brown to investigate the Rancho LPG facility, the Daily Breeze reported.