For months now, Sunoco has been attempting to bore under Valley Creek and the adjacent wetland near the Exton library. The borehole is intended to carry two Mariner East pipelines. But the work has polluted the wetland, caused water problems, and triggered one sinkhole after another.
On July 12, two pipeline observers did a live video stream as a new sinkhole opened and then swallowed a small tree. You can download the critical four minutes here.
There are two active pipelines carrying highly explosive compressed gases on either side of the sinkhole. The danger here is obvious. The depth of the sinkhole is unknown, but (given how much of the tree disappears) it probably extends well below the nearby pipelines. It is also unclear how far the sinkhole extends from side to side. But it is easy to imagine that the supporting earth may have given way under the active pipelines, leaving them unsupported. That could easily lead to a leak or rupture.
There have been catastrophes before. I am reminded of the Revolution pipeline in western Pennsylvania, which exploded three years ago when the earth supporting it gave way. That pipeline was carrying a mix of gases, mostly methane, so the damage was far less than the gases from Mariner East would cause. Even so, the family living nearest to the site lost their home and were lucky to get away with their lives.
It reminds me, too, of the Ruff Creek explosion in 1977, also in western PA. You can read about it here. This explosion was triggered when the earth subsided under a propane pipe, due to earlier mining activity. The pipe ruptured, forming an explosive cloud. Two men in a pickup truck drove into the cloud, triggering an explosion. Everything in that valley, up to a mile away, was burned. The men were killed, but fortunately they were the only ones in the area. An event like this in Exton would cause hundreds of fatalities.
The PUC, which is responsible for our safety, is doing nothing. Local authorities suggest that Chester County needs to deal with it, but Chester County says it is a local matter for the townships.
Let’s put an end to the finger-pointing. It is time for residents to demand action, and the County is in the best position to take action.
Bring your questions to the County Commissioners’ meeting. The monthly “sunshine meeting”, where matters are discussed prior to being voted on two days later, is on Tuesday July 20, 10:00-10:30 a.m. You can attend in person, via Zoom, or on the phone.
Details for how to participate are here:
Let the commissioners know it is time for them to act.