DEP fines Sunoco for damaging drinking water in Berks, Chester and Lebanon counties in 2017

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline resulted in cloudy water for some; others lost use of their wells

  • Susan Phillips

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

David Mano, a resident of Chester County’s West Whiteland Township, holds a sample of water taken from his well after construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline damaged his and his neighbor’s private water wells in the summer of 2017.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined Sunoco $148,000 for impacting 16 private water wells in three counties, caused by work on the Mariner East 2 pipeline in 2017.

DEP says residents near three construction sites, in Chester, Berks and Lebanon counties, experienced cloudy, turbid water, or lost their water supplies. The company also did not report the Chester County incident to DEP.

“Sunoco’s actions violated the law and will not be tolerated,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement. “No company is above the law.”

The fines reflect incidents in South Heidelberg Township, Berks County; West Whiteland and Uwchlan townships, Chester County; and South Londonderry Township, Lebanon County.

Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson Lisa Dillinger says the water issues have since been fixed. In Chester County, the company agreed to fund a new water line to provide drinking water to residents who lost the use of their private wells. In some cases, residents are using water supplied by the company.

“It is always our intent to fully comply with the terms and conditions of all our permits when constructing and operating our pipelines,” she said in an email.

Dillinger says Sunoco has since changed the way it conducts underground drilling.

Pam Bishop, a pipeline opponent who is active with Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County, says companies like Sunoco shouldn’t be able to “pay to pollute.”

“It’s totally unacceptable that they interfered with private water supplies,” she said. “That’s a private property right.”

Bishop said the permits to build Mariner East 2 should never have been granted.

The DEP recently settled a lawsuit brought by Clean Air Council over the permits issued for the Mariner East project. The settlement aims to increase public participation in future pipeline projects. Alex Bomstein is an attorney with Clean Air Council.

“It has been over the entire course of that construction that Sunoco has been violating the law, damaging people’s private property, destroying their water supplies,” he said.

Construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline began in the spring of 2017, and since then the DEP has issued more than 70 Notices of Violation, which include hundreds of drilling mud spills and dozens of impacted drinking water supplies.

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