What to Know
- A sinkhole exposed a controversial pipeline in Chester County Sunday.
- Officials were notified around 4:30 p.m. of a sinkhole on a property on the 400 block of Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township.
- Construction of the multi-billion dollar pipelines has been fraught from the beginning and an investigation is underway.
A sinkhole exposed a controversial pipeline in Chester County Sunday.
Chester County emergency dispatchers officials were notified around 4:30 p.m. of a sinkhole on a property on the 400 block of Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township.
West Whiteland Township Police responded and found a 5-feet-wide and 10-feet-deep sinkhole at the location. Police say the sinkhole was a result of failure of a water drainage system associated with the Mariner East 1 pipeline. Sunoco representatives were also at the location.
Officials say the sinkhole left the pipeline exposed but undamaged.
“At no time during the incident was there any impact to public safety, no evacuations were ordered, and no injuries reported. The incident has been closed, however, Sunoco and the PUC will continue to investigate,” Bill Turner, Deputy Director for Emergency Management, Chester County Department of Emergency Services, said.
On Monday, officials announced that the Mariner East 1 pipeline was shut in as a precautionary measure.
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"In cooperation with the PA PUC’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement and its consultants, the parties have agreed that the Mariner East 1 line in this area will be purged of product while the subsidence is filled with specialized grouting to ensure it remains stable and geophysical testing is performed," a spokesperson with Energy Transfer said. "Additionally, pipeline crews will actively monitor all Mariner East rights-of-ways in the area to ensure they remain safe and secure."
The spokesperson said there is no impact on the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
The Mariner East 1, 2 and 2X pipelines have sparked outrage, controversy and an investigation over the past two years.
They were created to funnel natural gas from western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook refinery in Delaware County. From there, the gas would be transported to Ohio and West Virginia.
Natural gas liquid includes propane, ethane, butane and natural gasoline that can be used for heating, cooking and filling up motor vehicle gas tanks.
Construction of the multi-billion dollar pipelines has been fraught from the beginning. Since their inception, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued more than 80 violation notices to Sunoco and collected more than $13 million in penalties, according to Gov. Tom Wolf's office. This included enforcing a one-month shutdown and setting guidelines to alert nearby public and private water suppliers prior to pipeline construction.
Despite these efforts, accidents continued to happen.
Last year, a leak in Delaware County 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.
Later, a judge granted an injunction to halt construction in West Goshen Township after officials accused Sunoco Pipeline LP of violating a settlement agreement. A spokesperson for West Goshen claimed Sunoco started construction to install and operate the pipeline near Greenhill and Boot roads without notifying local officials.
The parent company, Energy Transfer LP of Dallas, Texas, said it was "surprised" to learn of the investigation and "vehemently" denied any wrongdoing in an emailed statement.
"We are confident that we have not acted to violate any criminal laws in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and we are committed to aggressively defending ourselves against these baseless allegations," the statement said.
In December of 2018, an investigation focusing on the past and future construction of the three pipelines began. Seth Weber, a former federal prosecutor who served for 26 years as Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, will act as special prosecutor over the investigation.
Potential charges could include causing or risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief, environmental crimes and corrupt organizations, according to Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, who welcomed Weber's involvement in the investigation.