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Dinniman Calls Upon DEP to Halt Pipeline Drilling Until Aquifer Concerns are Resolved
On July 14, 2017
WEST CHESTER (July 14, 2017) – State Senator Andrew Dinniman called upon the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to halt horizontal directional drilling activities associated with the Mariner East II pipeline project following reports of water quality issues in proximity to the pipeline route. Dinniman referenced documentation submitted by Sunoco during the DEP permit approval process to demonstrate that unreliable data was used to identify private wells potentially impacted by construction activity throughout the Commonwealth.
In a letter sent to DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell Friday, Dinniman outlined a number of concerns associated with the identification and notification requirements contained in Sunoco Pipeline L.P.’s (Sunoco) Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit approved in February of this year. Specifically, Dinniman highlighted notification requirements for those citizens in the path of the pipeline who rely on private well water.
“Following reports of groundwater impact and wells running dry, I immediately began investigating what DEP requires to protect homeowners with well water, “said Dinniman. “I was shocked to discover that while notification is required, Sunoco was taking advantage of a significant loophole in the permitting process by claiming they were unaware that these wells existed.”
It was reported that on June 22, during the horizontal directional drilling process for this project, Sunoco or contractors working under Sunoco’s direction, damaged an underground water supply that fed a local aquifer. Following this incident, many of those residing on Valley View Drive, West Whiteland Township, noticed significant sediment and discoloration of their normally pristine private drinking water. Soon after, some homeowners discovered that their wells had run dry. Only after residents reached out to the company on July 3, was it discovered that the damage caused by Sunoco was responsible for both issues. Drilling has been temporarily suspended in this area by Sunoco.
A special condition of the approved DEP permit requires that Sunoco notify all identified public and private water suppliers along the projects corridor at least 72 hours prior to construction and to immediately contact these individuals in the event construction causes adverse impacts to the water supply. Further, it was noted in DEP’s September 2016 technical deficiency letter to Sunoco that they were required to submit a, “notification contact list,” of all public and private wells with their permit application before the permit would be considered complete.
“I was concerned that Sunoco was not following DEP notification requirements as the Valley View Drive community was not contacted 72 hours before construction or following an impact to their groundwater,” said Dinniman. “I kept digging and found out that Sunoco did in fact submit a notification contact list of private well owners, but that this list had just 22 names on it, with only three properties identified in Chester County. This did not make much sense. There are 739 public and private wells in West Whiteland Township alone and more impacted wells on Valley View Drive than they claim are in all of Chester County.”
During a further review of the permit application submitted by Sunoco, Dinniman discovered Sunoco largely utilized unreliable data to generate their notification contact list of private wells in Pennsylvania. This data was obtained through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Groundwater Information System (PAGWIS), a public database that provides known information regarding wells in Pennsylvania. However, the information is not a complete database and most of the properties listed do not include addresses, contact information, well use descriptions, or proper locations of these wells. Sunoco recognized these deficiencies in their Water Supply Assessment, Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency Plan explaining that, “Although the PAGWIS data is made available to the public, the accuracy as stated within the metadata is not reliable…”
“Everything was right there in the permit application and it concerns me that DEP agreed with Sunoco that only 22 homes could be impacted by this significant project,” Dinniman continued. “Clearly, the Department did not dedicate the necessary time and energy to ensure the public was protected before issuing the permit. I am calling on DEP to suspend horizontal directional drilling activities associated with this project until a comprehensive investigation can locate all private wells.”
Sunoco’s Mariner East II pipeline is being construction to transport natural gas liquids from Ohio and the Pittsburgh area to the Marcus Hook Facility in Delaware County. The Mariner East II pipeline will traverse 17 counties in the southern tier of the Commonwealth and will impact West Nantmeal, Wallace, Upper Uwchlan, West Whiteland, West Goshen, East Goshen, Westtown, and Thornbury in Chester County.
Senator Dinniman urged any property owners who rely on private well water to immediately contact DEP if they are not included in the 22 homes identified by Sunoco. DEP’s Southeast Regional Office can be reached at (484) 250-5900.
“The bottom line is, Sunoco submitted an application using bad data, DEP approved it and it is the citizens that are suffering the consequences,” said Dinniman. “I will continue to work to ensure that our groundwater is protected and I urge DEP officials to do the same.”