mud flowing into Marsh Creek Lake (Ginny 8-11-20)
A plume of drilling mud spreads into Marsh Creek Lake.

The construction of the Dragonpipe (Mariner East pipeline system) has caused a lot of controversy, but nothing like the howls of rage we are now hearing concerning the pollution of Marsh Creek Lake. The lake is both the heart of southeast Pennsylvania’s most popular state park and a drinking-water source for the surrounding area. A huge plume of drilling mud from a Mariner frac-out now extends far out into the lake.

The DEP has ordered a stop to construction at the site, but that halt does nothing to clean up the damage already done.

Views of Facebook posts about the situation are approaching 300,000—a completely unprecedented level of interest, and an indication that Sunoco has touched a very sensitive nerve.

The situation has received wide attention in the press. Here is a good summary from StateImpactPA.

Sunoco’s extraordinary statement. Sunoco has responded by issuing a statement about the Marsh Creek Lake pollution:

“We recognize the importance of this waterbody and are committed to allocating all necessary resources to fully remediate and restore the area. Critical resources have been mobilized, including environmental specialists, professional geologists, and operations and construction specialists, along with cleanup machinery such as pumps, vac trucks, tanker trucks, boats, sandbags and turbidity curtains. This effort will be ongoing as we conduct assessments and clean and restore the impacted area. As a clarification to some public statements that have been made, no public drinking water has been impacted.”

The startling thing about Sunoco’s statement is that it exists at all. Sunoco’s Mariner East construction has left a path of destruction across 17 Pennsylvania counties, fouling lakes and streams, ruining wells, clear-cutting mature forest, cracking foundations of homes, creating sinkholes in residential neighborhoods, and causing drilling mud to surface in creeks, roadways, and people’s yards. But this is the first time, as far as I know, that Sunoco has ever acknowledged the value of something they destroyed.

The company’s statement is, of course, far from being an apology. The statement says “we recognize the importance of this waterbody” but does not say “we’re sorry for the damage we did.” But it does show how nervous Sunoco is becoming about the increasing public outcry against its pipeline.

There is a groundswell of support for rescinding Sunoco’s construction permits. Many politicians from the area, both those who are in office and those who are running for election, are speaking out against the pipeline. I find that friends and relatives who have not previously been concerned about the pipeline are now speaking out. Supporters of it have disappeared.

It remains to be seen whether this new level of public opposition will have a long-term impact on Sunoco’s ability to continue with construction.

Meanwhile, at Shoen Road… The outpouring of anger about Marsh Creek Lake has taken the attention away from problems at another important site: Shoen Road, also in Chester County. Sunoco has punctured the aquifer in the hillside there, inundating the drill site with water. An estimated 250,000 gallons per day is being trucked out. No one can tell how serious the damage to the aquifer will be. A commercial well that supplies the local water utility is less than a quarter of a mile away. Will it be affected? No one knows.

On top of the water issues, the drilling has caused a frac-out. The DEP has ordered drilling halted at Shoen Road as well.

The Shoen Road situation will be the topic of my next post.

Want to help? Support the Safety 7. Final hearings in the “Safety 7” case before the PUC will take place just over 6 weeks from now. This case represents the best chance to shut down Mariner East until Sunoco can come up with a credible emergency plan—if that is even possible. Funds are urgently needed to pay for expert witnesses in the case. Please contribute. Even a few dollars will help. Details are here: