The Fairfax City Council has delayed until September consideration of a tough ordinance designed to tighten security at a gasoline storage terminal on Picket Road, after a challenge from oil companies using the facility.
The measure is one of several proposals being considered after what city officials consider a highly dangerous accident occurred May 14 in which 300,000 gallons of gasoline overflowed from a storage tank there.
At a public hearing on the proposed ordinance last week, an attorney for the four oil companies said the working of the ordinance would pose technical and legal problems, and recommended that the ordinance be redrafted. ythe City Council agreed, and scheduled another hearing on the isue for Sept. 8.
City spokesman Thomas R. Welle said the city fire marshal, Joseph R. Gebauer, would help rework the ordinance with Benjamin J. Trichilo, the lawyer for the four oil firms that use the facility.
Trichilo said the proposed ordinance would have forbidden pumping gasoline into tanks with non-functioning alarm systems, even though there are other ways to gauge the gasoline level of the tanks.
Under the current proposal, Trichilo said, "The minute your alarm goes out you can't use the tank for anything. The ordinance wasn't thought through. It was drafted in haste."
Trichilo also questioned the wisdom of inspecting the high-level alarms in each tank every week, as the proposal would have required. "If the ordinance requires weekly inspections," he said, "it runs the risk of jeopardizing the functioning of the alarms. Dismantling something and putting it back together every week isn't necessarily good for it.
"From a day-to-day working standpoint, you have to have something that doesn't result in an even greater catastrophe somewhere down the line."
Trichilo characterized the oil companies' objections to the ordinance as a "difference of opinion" with the City Council. "It was more a matter of form than substance," he said.
He added that he does not anticipate any problems once the ordinance is redrafted.
The gasoline spill May 14 was said to have been caused by a failed alarm in an American Oil Co. tank. About 300,000 gallons spilled from Tank No. 5 into a moat around the tanks and then into a nearby pond, forcing the evacuatio of the adjacent Comstock townhouse project. The cleanup took about 48 hours.