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PUC Investigation Of Mariner East 1 Pipeline Sinkhole In Chester County Shifts To Geological Testing
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On January 25, the Public Utility Commission announced detailed geological testing will begin Saturday, January 26 around the sinkhole that exposed the Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline on Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township, Chester County.

The entire length of the Mariner East 1 Pipeline remains shutdown.

The geological testing will be closely monitored by pipeline safety engineers from the PUC and geophysical consultants. Work on-site to prepare for the surveys began Friday.

The testing, which will be used to evaluate underground conditions, is expected to take several days to complete.

The PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement pipeline safety engineers and geophysical consultants will be on-site monitoring the collection of geophysical data.

The results of the testing will be shared with Bureau’s engineers and Bureau’s geophysical consultants for independent analysis and review.

PUC engineers and geophysical consultants have been working with municipal officials and Sunoco Pipeline LP to monitor and track stormwater flow around the incident site, including investigation of storm drains in the area.

Analysis of testing results and information from the ongoing safety engineering investigation will be used by the Bureau as a basis for data-driven discussions about next steps at the Lisa Drive site, along with any other work that the Bureau believes is necessary.

The Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement’s investigation of this incident is active and ongoing.

As the independent investigation and enforcement bureau of the PUC, the Bureau has the authority to bring enforcement action, seek emergency orders from the Commission or take other steps to ensure public safety, should circumstances change or based on the finding of the investigation.

Timeline

On January 20 at approximately 4:40 p.m., the PUC’s Pipeline Safety Division was notified by Sunoco Pipeline LP  that a new subsidence feature had formed near Lisa Drive, in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, exposing the Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline.

The Del-Chesco United For Pipeline Safety citizen group also reported the sinkhole incident on its Facebook page (photo).

PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement immediately dispatched a safety engineer to the site. The Bureau’s geophysical consultant, ARM, was also asked to send a representative to the site.

To ensure public safety, at approximately 6:30 pm on January 20, 2019, the Bureau proposed to SPLP that this section of the ME1 pipeline be shut down pending further investigation. At approximately 7:30 p.m. on January 20, 2019, SPLP initiated the stoppage of product transportation through this section of ME1.

The shutdown was completed at approximately 12:06 a.m. on January 21, 2019. As a result of this shutdown, there is no product flowing through an approximately 7-mile long section of pipeline, between valves located at Boot and Exton, both in Chester County.

The shutdown was completed at approximately 12:06 a.m. on January 21, 2019. As a result of this shutdown, there is no product flowing through an approximately 7-mile long section of pipeline, between valves located at Boot and Exton, both in Chester County.

DEP said on January 21 the PUC is the lead agency in Sunday’s sinkhole incident.

Temporary stabilization work around the sinkhole using flowable fill material and sand to secure an exposed section of the Mariner East 1 pipeline was completed by Sunoco on Wednesday, January 23.

In order to fully isolate the Lisa Drive location for testing, Sunoco purged a 44-mile section of the pipeline, from Beckersville, Berks County, to Marcus Hook, Delaware County; work to purge the final 3.8-mile segment of that line, from Twin Oaks, in Delaware County, to Marcus Hook was completed on January 24.

On January 24, the PUC’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement announced the operation of the entire length of the Mariner East 1 Pipeline was shut down by Sunoco Pipeline LP and will not be allowed to resume operations until the Bureau approves.

On January 25, the  PUC’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement announced detailed geological testing will begin Saturday, January 26 around the sinkhole that posed a threat to the integrity of the Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline on Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township, Chester County.

Public Meeting Jan. 31

On January 24, at the request of East Goshen Township in Chester County, Rep. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) and Sen. Tom Killion (R- Delaware) announced they will hold a public Q&A session on January 31 in West Chester with state agencies on Mariner East Pipeline safety concerns. Click Here for more.

Chester County DA Investigation Widens

On January 22, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced his criminal investigation into the Mariner East  Pipelines is “widening and deepening” after a new sinkhole opened up in a neighborhood along the pipelines.  Click Here for more.

Initial Reactions

Rep. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) said in a statement Monday, "I urge the PUC to shut down the M1 pipeline by Emergency Order immediately and keep it down as long as it takes to ensure the public is safe. 

"In addition to concerns raised by yesterday's and previous sinkholes in the Lisa Drive neighborhood, a 2017 leak caused by corrosion of this same aging pipeline in Morgantown led the PUC's BIE to recommend that Sunoco conduct a "remaining life study" of this 1931 pipeline and consider a plan to retire it.

"In my opinion it would be prudent for the PUC to require this study be completed and reviewed by independent experts prior to any consideration of restarting this pipeline."

Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) said in a statement, "Remember, this is the same pipeline, in the same area that I asked the PUC to shut down due to safety concerns over the summer. Their own administrative law judge (Elizabeth Barnes) agreed, writing in her opinion and order, ‘I believe given the release and accident history of Sunoco, there is a grave risk to the rupture of Mariner East 1 (ME1) . . .”

“Yet, a month later, in June, the full PUC voted 3-2 in a split decision to allow ME1 to resume operation. In that opinion and order, the PUC asserted, ‘While the record contains accounts of Sunoco’s mishaps in other jurisdictions and other pipelines, there is no new, credible evidence to support a finding that the continued operation of ME1 poses a clear and present danger to life or property in West Whiteland Township.’

“It’s also important to note that, the PUC took the testimony and report of Sunoco’s own geological expert at face value in making that statement and allowing ME1 to resume operation.

“Now, ME1 is again exposed due to a sinkhole on Lisa Drive and it is most certainly a very real and very significant potential safety threat. To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

“Last night, as I met with residents on Lisa Drive to see the site of the latest sinkhole for myself, I couldn’t help but wonder how we could have any confidence whatsoever left in the PUC when it comes to the safety of this pipeline. The fact that they overturned their own judge’s decision and allowed its operation to continue has eroded any lingering hope or faith that they will protect the public. To say we’re disappointed, disillusioned, disheartened, and downright angry at both the PUC and Sunoco is a gross understatement.

“How many more sinkholes and exposed pipelines will there be? How many times will the safety of our residents and communities be jeopardized before we pull the plug on this project? And how many times is this company is going to be permitted to risk a potentially life-threatening catastrophe before something goes seriously and tragically wrong? In fact, Mariner East passes more than 40 schools – many of them in Chester County – within its blast zone.

“Although Sunoco had no choice but to shut down ME1, one wonders if there is still product in the line. And all the while, Sunoco continues to operate the antiquated 12-inch line in the same area.

“Clearly, the PUC process is broken when it comes to pipeline safety. We said from day one that this is a geologically questionable area where pipelines shouldn’t be placed. And it seems like sinkholes and other issues are frequently exacerbated by severe weather and significant precipitation.

“The entire Mariner East project should be shut down until a review independent of Sunoco and PUC has been completed. The PUC process itself is in dire need of reexamination and revamping. And we must pass strong pipeline safety legislation now. Currently, there is no real, meaningful and effective pipeline regulatory process in the Commonwealth.

“Pennsylvania has already seen a pipeline rupture in rural Beaver County. I don’t want to see one here in suburban Chester County where pipelines are mere feet from homes, parks, schools, shopping centers, rail lines, and major thoroughfares.”

Other ME1 Actions

In March 2018, the PUC issued an emergency order to shutdown the Mariner East 1 Pipeline after similar sinkholes exposed the pipeline in the Lisa Drive area.

 In May, the PUC allowed the restart of the pipeline after Sunoco fixed the sinkholes and completed other work required under the agency’s emergency shutdown order.

In August, DEP allowed the restart of the related Mariner East 2 Pipeline construction in West Whiteland Township after revising it Chapter 102 and 105 permits to deal with water and sinkhole related issues.

In December, the PUC’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement proposed a $225,000 penalty for violations of federal pipeline safety regulations resulting from an April 1, 2017 leak of 840 gallons of ethane and propane from the Mariner East 1 Pipeline near Morgantown in Berks County.

Also In December the Chester County District Attorney opened a criminal investigation into the Mariner East Pipelines.

On January 17, the PUC rejected a request to have the Mariner East Pipelines shut down until compliance, safety and other issues raised by residents in Chester and Delaware counties could be heard by a PUC administrative law judge. The underlying case is continuing.

NewsClips:

Hurdle: Sunoco Empties 44 Miles Of Mariner East 1 Pipeline To Deal With Sinkhole

PUC: The Entire Length Of Mariner East 1 Pipeline Now Shut Down

Mariner East 1 Pipeline Completely Shut Down Across PA

PUC Directs Sunoco Not To Resume Operation Of Mariner East 1 Pipeline Until The Sinkhole Is Fixed, And Testing Shows It Is Safe To Operate

Hurdle: Sunoco To Purge Part Of Mariner East 1 Pipeline After New Sinkhole Opens In Chester County

Litvak: New Sinkhole Shuts Down Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 Pipeline In Chester County

Another Sinkhole Appears In Chester County Exposing Mariner East Pipeline

Sinkhole Exposes Highly Controversial Pipeline In West Whiteland Twp

Hurdle: New Sinkhole Opens Exposing Mariner East 1 Pipeline Again In Chester County Shutting It Down

Sinkhole Exposes Portion Of Mariner East 1 Pipeline In Chester County

Chester DA Investigating After Constables Hired To Guard Mariner East Pipeline

Chester DA: Mariner East Pipeline Hired Muscle To Guard Sinkhole

Litvak: Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion Rocks Eastern Ohio, Part Of Same System That Exploded In Westmoreland County

Report: Ohio Pipeline Damaged In Explosion Monday Part Of Same System That Exploded In Westmoreland County

Trump Eyes Action To Limit States’ Powers To Block Pipelines

Related Stories:

Rep. Comitta, Sen. Killion Host Public Meeting Jan. 31 On Mariner East Pipeline Safety Concerns

Chester County DA Says His Investigation Of Mariner East Pipelines Is Widening And Deepening After Latest Sinkhole Found

[Posted: Jan. 25, 2019]


1/28/2019

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