The “natural gas liquids” that the Dragonpipe (Mariner East pipeline system) carries across Pennsylvania are actually compressed explosive gases: ethane propane, and butane. If you want an idea of what they could do to your neighborhood, look no further than yesterday’s refinery fire in Philadelphia. That showed the power of propane and butane, when they escape from compression and ignite.
The series of explosions at the Point Breeze refinery in South Philadelphia made the national news. News outlets described debris raining down on local streets.
The video of the biggest of the three explosions is amazing—and terrifying. You can watch it here.
What if it happened in a residential area? It’s a miracle that no one was killed at the refinery. By afternoon, five injuries had been reported, all involving refinery workers. But what if this explosion had been in a heavily-populated area, instead of in the middle of the night, and instead of in the middle of an industrial complex with no homes close by?
These are the same materials that are being piped at high pressure through densely-populated suburban neighborhoods in Chester and Delaware County, on their way to Marcus Hook for export.
If the explosions had occurred in our area, there would have been dozens of fatalities (or, if the location and timing were really bad, even hundreds). Instead of an industrial plant, suppose that fireball had engulfed one of our retirement communities (I’m thinking of Wellington and Granite Farms, both of which are right next to Mariner East). Suppose it had been one of our schools.
No possibility of help. The news videos of the refinery fire also illustrate how impossible it would be for emergency responders to evacuate anyone (or for residents to self-evacuate). Even 12 hours later, in the afternoon, the news videos show fire crews trying to hose down the area around the continuing fires from hundreds of feet away. At an afternoon press conference, a fire department spokesperson described the fire as “contained, but not controlled.” If there had been anyone within a few hundred feet who survived the initial blast, they would not have been rescued because emergency crews could not get close. That’s exactly what would happen if Mariner East exploded in our suburbs.
Yesterday’s explosions showed the destruction that these materials can cause. It is time for Governor Wolf to shut this pipeline down, before a comparable explosion happens in a residential area and many lives are lost. That’s a real possibility: all it would take is a utility backhoe or a sinkhole in the wrong spot. This pipeline is far too dangerous to leave our safety to Sunoco’s whims.
Governor Wolf has the power to stop this. Call him and let him know what you think. He’s surely getting calls about the refinery, and that’s good, but make sure you mention “Mariner East” in your message. Here’s the number: 717-787-2500.