WEST WHITELAND (March 5, 2018) – State Senator Andy Dinniman said officials and inspectors from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) visited Lisa Drive in West Whiteland on Monday, a location where three sinkholes have opened up on a residential block apparently due to construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East II pipeline.
“Officials from PHMSA, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) were on site to inspect the situation and determine a course of action,” Dinniman, who has been a vocal critic of the project’s environmental and public safety dangers, said. “They are taking the situation very seriously and considering their options.”
This latest development comes just one day after Dinniman organized a community meeting in West Whiteland Township where he was joined by nearly 200 residents concerned about the pipeline project’s impacts and potential threats to their safety, as well as property and environmental rights.
At that meeting community groups announced that they are closing in on the remaining funds needed to obtain an independent risk assessment of the project and officials from several nearby municipalities pledged their support.
Earlier in the week Dinniman, who serves on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, had also reemphasized concerns that the region’s underlying karst geologic formation could make continued drilling risky.
So far, construction of the problematic Mariner II East pipeline has resulted in the contamination of almost two-dozen wells, damage to aquifers, and the development of multiple sinkholes that threaten private homes. Two of the sinkholes are within close proximity of Amtrak’s Keystone Line.
As a result of the development of the two latest sinkholes over the weekend, residents have been evacuated and Sunoco apparently has attempted to treat the problem by filling them.
Dinniman said federal officials from PHMSA are now involved because the sinkholes apparently exposed a portion of the Mariner East I pipeline, which carries highly volatile natural gas liquids (mainly ethane and propane).
“We expect a decision in the next 24 to 48 hours from state and federal officials,” he said. “That could include a suspension on drilling Mariner East II and/or a temporary halt on the transmission of natural gas liquids in Mariner East I.”
Dinniman also said that he understands that Sunoco did not follow proper notification protocols when the additional sinkholes appeared and exposed the Mariner East I pipeline. He said Sunoco had an obligation to notify PHMSA and the PUC as well, but only notified DEP.
“The Mariner East II project has been riddled with problems from the beginning. I’d call it a ‘comedy of errors,’ but there’s nothing funny about it. In fact, it is deadly serious – the very health, safety, and well-being of our communities are at stake,” he said. “We hope that federal involvement will bring real oversight, thorough inspection, and much-needed scrutiny to this project because time and time again, DEP and the current administration at the state-level have shown that they are simply not up to the job.”