risk chart 12-11-17
Variation in the number of people in the blast zone, depending on whether or not Sunoco actually implements its planned Berks County pump. (Data source: Middletown Coalition for Community Safety)

The only quantitative risk analysis of the Dragonpipe (the Mariner East 2 pipeline) was privately commissioned by the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety (MCCS). Every municipality along the route should have done something like this, but none of them even cared enough about their residents to do so. At least we have the MCCS study, and it has proved extremely valuable in helping people determine which homes, schools, churches, libraries, and shopping malls are in harm’s way.

Now, though, I am told that Sunoco has been contacting first responders and emergency personnel in our area, telling them that the MCCS study is flawed. The claim they make is that the pressure in the pipeline will be lower than the study assumed, because Sunoco has decided not to use one of the pumps included in their original plan (the one located in Berks County).

In response to Sunoco’s criticism, MCCS has re-run the numbers in the study to determine how the reduced pressure would change the data. The bar chart above shows the results of that analysis. While it is certainly true that the lowered pressure does make the blast zone smaller, which does reduce the number of people in the blast zone, the message of the study is unchanged: the risk is unacceptable.

Tell me this, Sunoco: are you saying that Aston’s first responders can relax because only 603 residents are in the blast zone (instead of 954 with the Berks pump in operation)? Are you saying that Uwchlan is OK because only 439 people are in the blast zone (instead of 669 with the Berks pump running)? Anyone can see that that is nonsense, and Sunoco is spreading it only to sow uncertainty and head off opposition in the affected communities.

Looking up and down the pipeline, the typical reduction in the blast zone population is about 30% if the Berks pump is not used. That’s a good thing, as far as it goes. But it does not mean first responders should feel reassured.  It does not mean that risk analyses should be ignored.

Sunoco is playing a dangerous game in trying to explain away the danger. Anywhere this pipeline springs a leak in Delaware or Chester County, hundreds of lives would be at risk. It doesn’t matter whether that risk is 100% of the number in the original MCCS risk study or 70% of that number (with no Berks County pump).

It is still hundreds of lives. It is still unacceptable.