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HDD must stop for Sunoco Mariner east 2 pipeline

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World Pipelines,

Drilling operations for the 350 mile Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline that would run through several US states and 17 Pennsylvania counties must stop until early August, according to an order issued yesterday by the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board.

An environmental judge has ordered a two week halt on horizontal drilling across Pennsylvania for construction of a natural gas pipeline pending a hearing next month.

The order impacts 55 locations in Pennsylvania using horizontal directional drilling (HDD).

In a separate action, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced accountability actions against the same pipeline in West Whiteland and Uwchlan townships, Chester County. DEP said it will conduct an independent investigation into contaminated water supplies for some 14 homeowners in the county. 

"DEP continues to be diligent in our oversight of this project,” DEP secretary Patrick McDonnell said. “To impact a person’s private drinking water is inexcusable, and we intend to hold this operator accountable to the fullest extent."

The pipeline would carry natural gas liquid from Ohio and the Pittsburgh area to a facility in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

Tuesday’s ruling comes after a leak at the Delco site caused thousands of gallons of drilling mud to flow into Chester Creek in Middletown Township, Pennsylvania.

The mud, which consisted of potable water and non-toxic bentonite clay, entered a tributary of the creek near the pipeline.

“Residents living along the route of the pipeline have been assailed over the last few months by drilling spills and damage to water wells and water quality due to Sunoco’s reckless drilling,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and chief counsel for the Clean Air Council, one of three organisations that petitioned to halt drilling operations associated with pipeline construction.

The US2.5 billion, 350 mile (563 km) pipeline across southern Pennsylvania will carry propane, butane and ethane from the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation to an export terminal near Philadelphia.

The judge said the ruling could be modified if Sunoco can provide evidence that halting drilling already underway "would cause equipment damage, a safety issue, or more environmental harm than good."

Sunoco Pipeline spokesman Jeff Shields said the company believes the full hearing "will demonstrate that we have expended every effort to meet the strict conditions of our environmental permits."

"We are continually evaluating our drilling plans, and had already voluntarily suspended work on a number of our drills while working to ensure that the concerns outlined by the DEP and Gov. (Tom) Wolf were addressed," Shields said.

Sunoco Pipeline spokesman Jeff Shields has acknowledged the drilling lubricant — a mixture of water and nontoxic bentonite clay — can cause clouding and loss of pressure if it seeps into the surface of the local terrain and gets into well water. But he said the company, in accordance with the state DEP, has procedures in place to contain and recover such seepage.

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