Sunoco Logistics has begun work to expand the existing Mariner East pipeline system through the construction of the Mariner East 2 (PA Pipeline Project) project. When constructed, this project will transport natural gas liquids from Ohio and the Pittsburgh area to the Marcus Hook facility for both domestic distribution and export. The Mariner East 2 pipeline, proposes approximately 350 miles of pipe, spanning Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Mariner East 2 will have an initial capacity of about 275,000 barrels a day of natural gas liquids using a 20″ diameter pipeline. The length of the project through Chester County is approximately 23.6 miles and in Delaware County, 11.4 miles. Approximately 80% of the Mariner East 2/PA Pipeline Project is to be located within existing right-of-ways.
Recently, Sunoco’s operations punctured an aquifer within Chester County which is utilized by residents as a supply for drinking water. As a result, Sunoco has agreed to halt drilling operations related to the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction in Chester County where 15 households have been without water for the past couple weeks due to the aquifer intrusion by horizontal directional drilling.
Sunoco did report that its drilling caused water to drain from the private aquifer and lower the water table, causing the contamination. But the company continued drilling and didn’t notify residents because, at that point, there was no indication of water contamination. Initially, the clouding of the water in Exton was suspected to be from non-toxic bentonite clay, commonly used in drilling as a lubricant. But tests on the wells of 30 homes show only ground water and sediment in their water, not bentonite clay. Post-drilling water tests compared to the baseline results showed differences in turbidity, or cloudiness, and some elevated iron measures – changes that would affect the taste and smell of the water – but no changes in key health-affecting content.
Residents in the region, advocates, and local politicians are concerned that more problems are imminent if Sunoco resumes drilling. Late last month, a coalition of local environmental groups from suburban Pennsylvania said it had gathered about 1,200 signatures of residents who want the Mariner East 2 project halted because of water contamination fears. Although Sunoco is required by the Department of Environmental Protection to inform water users along the route about construction at least 72 hours before it began, most said they were not informed.
Sunoco has been supplying bottled water and offered to pay for hotel rooms so impacted residents can shower and bathe since the July 4th holiday weekend, when it was first notified by home owners that their wells had either run dry or had tainted water. Additionally, Sunoco agreed to pay for a new water line to connect residents to a public drinking water source supplied by Aqua. Aqua had agreed to have a new water main installed within three weeks.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced it will enforce a Consent Order and Agreement (COA) with Sunoco Pipeline L.P. (Sunoco) for violations associated with its Mariner East 2 project in West Whiteland and Uwchlan Townships, Chester County.
“The corrective actions outlined in the COA are steps DEP is taking to hold Sunoco accountable and protect local residents,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “DEP is conducting its own independent investigation of this pollution event and reserves the right to assess further enforcement, as appropriate.”
Most recently, Horizontal directional drilling has been allowed to resume at two Chester County locations of the Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline. Horizontal directional drilling was allowed to resume at Ship Road in West Whiteland and at Eagleview Boulevard in Uwchlan Township.