Home Local News Twists and turns complicate pipeline construction

Twists and turns complicate pipeline construction

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WEST GOSHEN >> Amid strong opposition from grass roots citizen groups and individuals, work on the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline is still under construction.

During a series of protests, dozens of demonstrators held signs high and chanted. Some attended a press conference in Harrisburg with elected representatives, and six members of the public met with Gov. Tom Wolf to voice their concerns.

The governor was presented with letters from a bipartisan group of elected officials. Urging action were U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, state Sens. Andrew Dinniman, D-19, and John Rafferty, R-44, and state Reps. Becky Corbin, R-155, Duane Milne, R-167, and Carolyn Comitta, D-156.

“During the meeting, residents repeatedly stressed the urgent need to address the threat to densely populated communities, and once again handed Gov. Wolf a petition containing over 6,000 signatures asking him to protect the safety of schools,” reads a release.


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Plans call for the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline to stretch 350 miles from Marcellus Shale deposits in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio to the former Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

Most of the fluids are expected to be shipped overseas and used to make plastic bottles.

Sunoco Pipelines Communications Manager Jeff Shields said that while work is behind schedule, mainline construction is 91 percent completed and horizontal directional drilling is 62 percent complete.

In early December, three dozen demonstrators marched along the pipeline route in West Goshen Township.

Many of the demonstrators who took part in the pipeline prayer walk are members of the United Church of Christ in East Goshen.

Marchers carried signs and paused for prayer a couple of times along Boot Road, starting at Wellington at Hershey’s Mill, where pipeline construction runs within 100 feet of the assisted living facility. They ended up at the Goshen Fire Company.

Safety meetings were attended by hundreds as the public learned about what to do if highly volatile liquids ethane, butane or propane were discharged by a pipeline.

They were told that a car engine, doorbell or cellphone might spark an explosion. The public was told to run a half-mile away from a pipeline rupture. Some expressed worry about young students or seniors evacuating safely.

Residents watched as pipeline construction snaked through Chester and Delaware counties. A sinkhole, approximately six feet wide developed in West Whiteland Township.

Outgoing township Supervisor Joe Denham visited Lisa Drive when the sinkhole first appeared. He was worried about the geologic integrity of soil in the drilling area and the safety of residents.

Denham then contacted the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation.

“We need a watchdog,” Denham said. “We need Sunoco to be held accountable.

“We need to ensure that Sunoco is complying with the regulations and to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of our residents.”

West Goshen activist Tom Casey is becoming increasingly frustrated with the more than 300 inadvertent returns. He called on Wolf to stop pipeline construction.

“The DEP is failing us,” Casey said. “They are not doing their job.

“You and I would be fired. The only person who can make them do their job is Gov. Wolf. His silence is deafening.”

After drinking water wells were fouled in West Whiteland Township, more than 30 homeowners took up Sunoco on an offer to connect their homes to a public water provider and for Sunoco to pay each homeowner $60,000.

One pair of residents, David Mano and his fiancée, Diane Salter, turned down the offer and still use well water. Mano discovered sludge in his water in early July.

Dinniman fired off a July 14 letter to the DEP.

He said that the aquifer might have been damaged, and he said at the time that no one yet knows if any more wells will go dry.

“Sunoco’s lack of knowledge associated with these well sites in such close proximity to horizontal directional drilling activities places Chester County citizens in direct and immediate harm and demonstrates the incomplete nature of the original application,” Dinniman wrote. “I request the department require an immediate and full suspension of construction activity until the safety of our commonwealth ground water is assured.”

Several first-time candidates for local office won big on Election Day in November, and many attributed their victories to voters opposed to pro-pipeline representatives.

Many residents fought against pipeline construction in high-density areas and within 100 feet of schools, churches and senior centers.

Residents were concerned when four inadvertent returns of drilling fluid were discharged during a four-day time period in East Goshen.

Sunoco also suggested digging trenches instead of using horizontal directional drilling, which earlier plans called for near the Chester County Library and Exton Mall.

Pipeline construction became a legal matter.

On July 26, a judge halted all drilling statewide. The ban lasted more than a week.

In West Goshen, Sunoco also changed its mind. After the PUC voted in July to halt construction in the township, Sunoco said during November that there was no need to build a controversial safety valve near Route 202 and Boot Road.

Also, Uwchlan and East Goshen townships adopted strongly worded non-binding resolutions.



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