A leak at the Delaware County site of the Sunoco pipeline caused thousands of gallons of drilling mud to flow into a creek.
During an incident Monday around 1 p.m. which officials described as an “inadvertent return of drilling mud,” drilling mud from Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline entered the 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 site of the drill. Officials say approximately 1500 gallons of mud reached the creek.
Crews later arrived to recover the mud and monitor the area while drilling was halted.
“The drilling mud is used to lubricate the drill underground; on occasion the mud will find a seam in the earth and return to the surface,” a spokesperson for Sunoco told NBC10. “The release of non-toxic mud has been managed according to plans developed as part of our Pennsylvania DEP permitting process, which outlines practices to contain, remove and recycle any drilling mud that escapes during drilling activities.”
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The spokesperson also told NBC10 workers saw groundwater flowing back to a drill pad Tuesday and they are working to contain it.
“We have not had any reports of impacts to private wells or public water supplies,” the spokesperson wrote. “There is a considerable amount of water coming out, so we are adding additional containment areas for the water which allows the water to be collected.”
Several neighbors on Martins Lane in Middletown Township, including Annie Hollis, noticed the overflow. Hollis claims she saw the mud leaking a day before the reported incident.
“It’s been spilling since Sunday,” Hollis said. “It’s now Tuesday.”
Both the State’s Department of Environmental Protection and Bruce Clark, the Middletown Township manager, are investigating the leak.
“They are satisfied with the cleanup efforts that have been done so far by Sunoco,” Clark said.
The Mariner East 2 pipeline will carry 275,000 barrels of liquid natural gas a day from Ohio and western Pennsylvania to a processing facility in Marcus Hook, Delaware County. The 20-inch pipe and a second 16-inch line cuts through 23.6 miles of land in Chester County and 11.4 miles in Delaware County, county planners say.
The pipeline has been the subject of controversy. Residents in West Whiteland and Uwchlan townships claimed the pipeline was contaminating their water leading to a suspension in the pipeline’s construction which later resumed.
West Goshen Township also filed a petition for an injunction against Sunoco Pipeline LP, accusing the company of violating a settlement agreement in the construction of the pipeline. A spokesperson for West Goshen claimed Sunoco began construction to install and operate the pipeline near Greenhill and Boot roads without notifying West Goshen Township officials.
A spokesperson for Sunoco Pipeline told NBC10 the company is in compliance with the settlement agreement but did not have any comment beyond that.
Pennsylvania Senator Chris Quinn, who represents Delaware County, is calling for a halt on the pipeline's construction until more safeguards are put in place.
"What is occurring here is unacceptable," Quinn said. "I am asking the governor and DEP secretary to come down here with Sunoco contractors and tour the incident sites where these breeches have occurred."