Although Governor Wolf has ordered the shutdown of all “non-life-sustaining” businesses, Sunoco has been granted waivers for work on the Dragonpipe (Mariner East pipeline system) at 17 of its work sites. That’s a mistake, and those waivers must be revoked. For one thing, Mariner East is anything but “life-sustaining”. For another, it runs through densely-populated areas where Covid-19 is prevalent, and pipeline workers are likely to become infected and to infect others.
How prevalent is Covid-19 along the pipeline route? I took a look at the data provided by the Chester County Health Department, which is providing data for both Chester County (here) and Delaware County (here). (Unfortunately, Delaware County lacks its own health department.)
The data I looked at is for April 6. It lists the prevalence of Covid-19 in terms of confirmed cases as a percentage of the population.
I was interested in knowing if communities impacted by the pipeline were also high-incidence areas for Covid-19. I found that they were. Of the 14 municipalities that the pipeline passes through in the two counties, five are very high-incidence.
The first list below shows the top 10 municipalities, in order of Covid-19 prevalence, for Chester County. (Chester County has 74 municipalities in all.) The pipeline passes through three of the top 10, highlighted in red (West Goshen, Uwchlan, and West Whiteland).
|Municipality||Pct of Pop||Cases|
|Spring City Borough||0.15%||5|
|South Coatesville Borough||0.14%||2|
|East Whiteland Township||0.09%||10|
|West Vincent Township||0.08%||4|
|West Goshen Township||0.07%||15|
|West Whiteland Township||0.07%||12|
Similarly, for Delaware County, two of the 10 municipalities with the highest prevalence (Thornbury and Middletown) are crossed by the pipeline. (The county has a total of 49 municipalities.)
|Municipality||Pct. of Pop||Cases|
|East Lansdowne Borough||0.23%||6|
|Rose Valley Borough||0.21%||2|
|Nether Providence Township||0.17%||23|
It is worth emphasizing that these are just the confirmed Covid-19 cases known to the Health Department. Because of the difficulty of getting tested and the possibility of cases with few or no symptoms, it is likely that the actual number of cases is far higher. And to the extent that out-of-state workers have become ill, it is likely that their cases are not included in the local numbers. Furthermore, across the two counties there are more than 300 confirmed cases for which the location was “still pending investigation” as of March 6.
Let me be clear: I am not claiming that the pipeline work is causing the prevalence of cases in these municipalities (although that possibility is worth looking into). I am just saying that the pipeline’s route takes it through areas of high prevalence. The high prevalence may simply be due to the fact that these are areas of dense population, where you would expect more contagion.
Because pipeline workers are being sent into areas of high Covid-19 prevalence, they are being put at increased risk of infection. And because they frequent local hotels, grocery stores, and restaurants, they risk spreading the disease to the rest of us.
The Governor must revoke the waivers that have been granted to Sunoco to continue this work during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can find out more about the waivers and why they should never have been granted by clicking here.
Contact the Governor’s office and ask for the waivers to be revoked. Call him at 717-787-2500, or submit a contact form at https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/.
The agency in charge of approving these waivers is called the Department of Community and Economic Development. Call them at 866-466-3972 or visit their contact page for other methods: https://dced.pa.gov/contact-us/.
Tell them we must stop this non-life-sustaining work before it contributes to a lot of unnecessary illness and death.