Sunoco has filed revised construction plans for two stretches of the Dragonpipe (Mariner East 2), and there is a public comment period ending on February 6. Your input is needed! (See the end of this post for how to comment.) One area is in Chester County (along Rte. 352 in the area of Bowtree Drive, Strasburg Road, and the Pin Oaks subdivision) and one is in Delaware County (along Valley Road, south of Sleighton Park). The Bowtree plans are posted here , and the Valley Road plans are here.
There are several things I find troubling about these plans, but I am most perturbed by the cavalier attitude that they take toward local wells and aquifers.
Bowtree-area water issues. In the case of the Bowtree area, they have identified 10 wells (page 4) or perhaps 12 wells (page 61). They confidently expect no problems for well users except possibly “turbid water” from drilling vibration. But the planned drilling goes far deeper than the local water table, so contamination of wells and aquifers is a real possibility. Sunoco does not address it, but merely states that “if an impact from the [drilling] is verified, then [Sunoco] will encourage the affected landowner to allow installation of alternative water supply.” Really? Is that the best you can do, Sunoco?
Valley Road water issues. The situation along Valley Road is even worse. Here, Sunoco has identified 28 wells (page 5)—or just 20 wells, if you believe the list on page 21. (Sunoco’s failure to record its count of wells accurately and consistently is an indication of the level of attention to detail that went into these plans.)
In this area, the same threat to the aquifers and wells exists as the ones outlined above for the Bowtree area, but in addition there is another threat: “groundwater flow back to the southeastern entry/exit point”. Sunoco will be drilling into the hillside in the Rocky Run valley behind Granite Farms assisted living and the Wawa dairy. That end of the drill path will be lower than the land along Valley Road, and lower than the water table in part or all of the area.
That can produce two kinds of problems. First, people’s wells can be completely drained, just as they were at the Shoen Road site in Chester County and the Tunbridge site in Delaware County. Second, as the water from the aquifer drains out from the drill hole, it could pour into the Rocky Run wetlands, below, carrying contaminants with it.
Sunoco doesn’t properly address either issue. The company will “encourage landowners to make advance arrangements for the supply of alternative water sources” during the drilling, but makes no mention of wells that may run dry.
And it says that “excess produced groundwater … will either be captured, filtered, and discharged to the land surface at the edge of the temporary workspace, or if the means of filtration is insufficient to prevent the discharge of turbid water…[the water] will be pumped into storage tanks … and then hauled away…” This was exactly the plan at Shoen Road and Tunbridge, and Sunoco was unable to handle the volume of water in either location. In the case of Valley Road, the overflow, if any, would go into the sensitive Rocky Run wetland, part of the Wawa Preserve.
No alternative route considered. Finally, it almost goes without saying that although Sunoco was required by its August 9 settlement agreement (see “The settlement: what’s happening with drilling and water testing”) to consider alternative routes for this pipeline, it has always refused to take this legal commitment seriously. In every report so far, including these two, Sunoco simply dismisses the possibility of other routes by saying they are “not practicable”, while providing no evidence of any serious consideration. This failure alone should be enough to get Sunoco hauled into court and construction shut down. Attorney General Shapiro, are you listening?
Your input is needed before the February 6 deadline. Here is one thing you can do: the DEP is soliciting public comments on Sunoco’s plans for these two locations until February 6, and you should let them know what you think. Email your comments to the DEP at this address:
Tell the DEP about the problems you see with these plans: damage to wells and aquifers, damage to wetlands, failure to consider alternatives, and whatever else you find wrong with it. But it needs to be done quickly.
To have greatest effect, it is important to send copies of your DEP comments to several other places:
- To the Clean Air Council, who needs your comments as ammunition in its fight against the pipeline. Send copies to Kathryn Urbanowicz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- To Governor Wolf, who has the power to stop this pipeline if he wants to. You can use this contact form: https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/
- Send copies of your comments to your state senator and representative too. They can help put pressure on the DEP, the PUC, and the governor.
Let Harrisburg know they are not doing their jobs in protecting people and the environment!