PA Halts Pipeline Construction Over Leaks
Pennsylvania officials stopped construction of Sunoco Pipeline’s Mariner East 2 pipeline Wednesday (Jan. 3) after a series of incidents in which drilling fluids were released into the environment over the course of seven months.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued the order suspending construction after issuing 32 notices of violation to Sunoco between May 9 and Dec. 22. Violations largely related to “inadvertent returns” of fluids from horizontal directional drilling (HDD), considered to be industrial waste.
The violations range across the state, from Washington County at the southwestern border (where one release of 1,500 gallons of drilling fluids reportedly contaminated a tributary of a stocked trout stream) to Chester County, outside Philadelphia.
Water Supply Affected
Most recently, on Dec. 22, the DEP cited Sunoco for releases of HDD fluids that reportedly affected the water supplies for at least two residences; according to the state, Sunoco did not have a permit to perform HDD at that site, in Cumberland County, and was to be installing pipeline via open-trench methods.
Before construction can resume, the agency is requiring Sunoco to address impacts to wells in the area of the Cumberland County release and submit a new operations plan addressing the problem of inadvertent returns.
About the Pipeline
Mariner East 2, set to move ethane, propane and other petroleum products from Ohio and West Virginia east to the Philadelphia region, is planned for completion later this year, according to Sunoco. The DEP’s order, however, halts all construction (other than basic site maintenance activities) until further notice.
Mariner East 2 is being constructed of 350 miles of 16-inch pipe and 250 miles of 20-inch pipe, most rolled, milled and coated in the United States, according to Sunoco. The first Mariner East pipeline, 300 miles long, was completed in 2016 and conveys liquid propane and ethane to from the Marcellus shale drilling region of Western Pennsylvania east to Sunoco’s Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, refinery.
Sunoco Pipeline is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, the company that recently completed construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, from North Dakota to Illinois.