Twelve households in West Whiteland and Uwchlan townships in Pennsylvania reported contaminated well water in Chester County, Pennsylvania, causing Sunoco Pipeline LP to temporarily halted construction on its Mariner East 2 pipeline last Friday.
Sunoco tested private water wells in the area to determine if its horizontal directional drilling caused the murky water by introducing bentonite clay into water supplies.
Five families with contaminated water were relocated to local hotels after alerting the company and the EPA about the water problem. Other families affected were given additional filtration supplies and bottled water. Results from the recent water well tests have not yet been delivered but George Turner, a township supervisor, said “Our concern is to make sure that our residents have a permanent solution to this so it doesn’t recur.”
Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said the company had notified the Pennsylvania EPA and the township, saying “We will do everything in our power to minimize the impacts to homeowners.”
In the meantime, West Goshen Township has filed a petition for an injunction against Sunoco Pipeline LP, accusing the company of violating a settlement agreement regarding the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline.
Sunoco's actions have already angered at least one local lawmaker, Pa. Sen. Andy Dinniman, who requested the company halt its work until tests of the water were complete. “You tell the residents it’s going to take a week to get the results back,” Dinniman said. “The next day, to the best of our knowledge, without the test results you start the drilling again but you publicly state that you’re awaiting the test results that are going to help us resolve the issues. So where are the test results? Did you get them done in a day or was your initial comment a puff kind of a comment? I don’t see how you get them back in a day.”
Dinniman suggested that Sunoco was in a rush to resume drilling before test results from the water wells were released. “Were these tests able to determine if any lasting damage has been done to the aquifer and, if so, what efforts is Sunoco taking to mitigate this damage?” he wrote to company officials in an email on Monday.
Officials in West Whiteland Township are also taking action, asking Sunoco to cover the costs to connect about a dozen homes to the public water system so they are no longer impacted by the company's drilling. This option is not favored by all affected residents who could be connected to the city's water supply. “If I have to hook up to city water, they should have to pay my water bills for the rest of my life,” said Benjamin Eckert,a Valleyview Drive homeowner. “We had a perfectly good well.”
Sunoco has a history of leaks and spills. The company has confirmed three separate releases of bentonite clay from drilling in May and an earlier report from Reuters showed Sunoco is the biggest spills offender with more than 200 crude oil leaks since 2010.
The Mariner East 2 pipeline will carry 275,000 barrels of liquid natural gas a day from Ohio and western Pennsylvania to a processing facility in Marcus Hook, Delaware County. The 20-inch pipe and a second 16-inch line cuts through 23.6 miles of land in Chester County and 11.4 miles in Delaware County.
On Saturday, the company resumed drilling after it announced that it will continue to closely monitor the situation.