Latest Mariner East violation in Lebanon County could draw penalties against Sunoco

  • Rachel McDevitt

State environmental regulators are hitting Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline project with its sixth violation in Lebanon County since mid-August.

The latest drilling fluid spill could lead to fines or a hold on project permits.

Sunoco reported an inadvertent return, or spill, of about 200 gallons of drilling fluid into Snitz Creek in West Cornwall Township on Oct. 19. It’s the largest spill of the 16 violations in Lebanon County since the project started in 2017, according to the Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

The Department of Environmental Protection said an inspector found Sunoco had tried to bypass the stream with a sandbag dam and corrugated plastic pipe, which it did not get permission for.

DEP said the spill, together with the unauthorized water obstruction, warranted further evaluation of Sunoco’s activities.

The latest Notice of Violation comes with an “opportunity for informal hearing.” That’s not a public hearing, but a meeting between DEP legal counsel and program staff and Sunoco representatives to determine if the company has failed to comply with permits or rules, and if it intends to comply moving forward.

If DEP determines Sunoco can’t or won’t comply, it could hold up the pipeline project by reinstating a bar on permit modifications. However, a DEP spokesman said the agency can’t completely stop the project because Sunoco did obtain the required permits in 2017.

In a statement, Sunoco’s parent company Energy Transfer said, “We are fully cooperating with the DEP in this matter and will continue to so that we fulfill the obligations of our permits and the appropriate regulations of the Commonwealth.”

Since December 2017, Sunoco has paid four civil penalties totaling more than $780,000 for incidents that included ones in Lebanon County.

The recent string of violations in Lebanon and Chester counties has some environmental advocates renewing questions about whether building a pipeline in the area’s fragile limestone geography is even feasible.

In August, DEP ordered Sunoco to find a new path for about a mile of its pipeline at a site in Chester County, after a drilling spill of more than 8,000 gallons closed part of Marsh Creek Lake to the public.

 

Timeline of Mariner East violations in Lebanon County

August 16, 2017 – Active release of sediment into Bachman Run near Mount Wilson Rd. in South Annville Township, caused by a failure to install and maintain appropriate erosion and sediment control best management practices.

October 27, 2017 – Notice for two drilling fluid spills at a horizontal directional drill site along Snitz Creek in West Cornwall Township. The spills were classified as industrial waste.

October 31, 2017 – Sediment discharge to an unnamed tributary to Killinger Creek in South Londonderry Township, caused by a failure to install and maintain appropriate erosion and sediment control best management practices.

December 22, 2017 – 50 gallons of industrial waste spilled into wetlands in South Londonderry Township during installation of a 20-inch line.

March 16, 2018 – Industrial waste spill at a horizontal directional drill site along Snitz Creek in West Cornwall Township.

April 20, 2018 – 20-gallon spill of industrial waste at a horizontal directional drill site along Snitz Creek in West Cornwall Township.

June 1, 2018 – 2-quart spill of industrial waste at a horizontal directional drill site along Snitz Creek in West Cornwall Township.

June 11, 2018 – 1-cup spill of industrial waste at a horizontal directional drill site along Snitz Creek in West Cornwall Township.

June 28, 2018 – 5-gallon spill of industrial waste into Snitz Creek at a horizontal directional drill site near North Zinns Mill Rd. in West Cornwall Township.

August 16, 2018 – 38-gallon spill of industrial waste into Snitz Creek at a horizontal directional drill site in West Cornwall Township.

August 13, 2020 – 20-gallon spill of industrial waste into Snitz Creek at a horizontal directional drill site near North Zinns Mill Rd. in West Cornwall Township.

August 28, 2020 – 1-gallon spill of industrial waste into Snitz Creek at a horizontal directional drill site near North Zinns Mill Rd. in West Cornwall Township.

September 1, 2020 – 6-gallon spill of industrial waste into Snitz Creek at a horizontal directional drill site near North Zinns Mill Rd. in West Cornwall Township.

September 18, 2020 – 1-gallon spill of industrial waste into Snitz Creek at a horizontal directional drill site near North Zinns Mill Rd. in West Cornwall Township.

September 25, 2020 – Quarter-gallon spill of industrial waste into Snitz Creek at a horizontal directional drill site near North Zinns Mill Rd. in West Cornwall Township.

October 21, 2020 – 200-gallon spill of industrial waste into Snitz Creek at a horizontal directional drill site near North Zinns Mill Rd. in West Cornwall Township. Inspectors found an unauthorized sandbag dam and corrugated plastic pipe used to attempt to bypass the stream.

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