Last week, Sunoco Pipeline LP temporarily halted construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline after Chester County residents complained that the drilling was making their water supply murky. On Saturday, the company resumed drilling after it announced that it will continue to closely monitor the situation, Philly.com reports.
Families that have complained about the drilling’s impact on their private water wells received bottled water or additional filtration, according to the company, which relocated five families to local hotels last week. About a dozen families have reportedly submitted complaints about damaged water.
By Friday, a few days after complaints were submitted, Sunoco had tested about two dozen private water wells to determine whether its horizontal directional drilling caused the complications. “We have notified the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection, the township and all appropriate agencies, and will do everything in our power to minimize the impacts to homeowners,” Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields told Philly.com.
Though test results have yet to be delivered, officials suspect that the horizontal directional drilling is to blame, State Impact PA reports. George Turner, a township supervisor, told the publication that the tests will likely show that bentonite clay, a non-toxic substance used as a lubricant in horizontal directional drilling, turned the water supplies cloudy. “Our concern is to make sure that our residents have a permanent solution to this so it doesn’t recur,” he said.
Sunoco has already confirmed three separate releases of bentonite clay from drilling in May, and although it’s non-toxic, high levels can harm aquatic life, says State Impact Pa. A report from Reuters shows that Sunoco is the biggest offender when it comes to spills, State Impact Pa. notes. It’s had more than 200 crude oil leaks since 2010. Sunoco representatives could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The company commenced the $2.5 billion 350-mile drilling project back in February to a public divided about the potential impact of the pipeline. It will carry natural gas liquids like propane, ethane and butane extracted from western Pennsylvania to an industrial complex at the former refinery in Marcus Hook near Philadelphia. The company plans to build a third pipeline once construction of the Mariner East 2 is complete.
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