Sunoco Pipeline Spills Drilling Fluid Three Times in Same Area

Sunoco's controversial Mariner East 2 pipeline project has racked up even more spills.

Pennsylvania's Daily Local News reported that horizontal directional drilling triggered three releases of drilling fluid around the same site in East Goshen over the span of three days.

The "small inadvertent returns"—an industry term for spills—happened twice on Monday and another on Saturday, Sunoco communications manager Jeff Shields said in the report. He added that drilling stopped, the fluid has been contained, and no water resources were affected.

The latest spills add to a track record of leaks and other incidents surrounding the $2.5 billion pipeline project that's designed to carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia, across Pennsylvania, to the Atlantic coast.

In July, a judge ordered Sunoco to temporarily halt horizontal directional drilling for installation of its Mariner East 2 pipeline, siding with environmental groups that the process caused dozens of drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and mid-June, including leaks into wetlands and waterways. The order expired Aug. 7.

Sam Rubin, organizer with Food & Water Watch, gave the following statement to the Daily Local News:

"Sunoco is a dangerous operator. The one person who can take immediate action to keep our community safe is Gov. Tom Wolf. Gov. Wolf has not lived up to his statutory responsibility to prepare the state of Pennsylvania for the risks of a high pressure ethane pipeline in densely populated areas. We need a full, publicly available and comprehensive safety and preparedness analysis done. Gov. Wolf needs to halt this pipeline until one is complete.

Today's leak adds to the proof, which was already abundantly clear, that Sunoco cannot be trusted to operate in a safe manner. There have already been over 100 reported spills and other drilling accidents linked to the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline. We don't need any more evidence."

The Daily Local News suggested that the company may have to stop drilling at the site until it receives approval to resume operations in light of a settlement agreement brokered between Sunoco, the DEP and the Clean Air Council, which stated:

"If the inadvertent return is confirmed to be less than 50 gallons and is the first inadvertent return at an HDD location, HDD operations may continue after containment is achieved and removal of the inadvertent return has been completed, following approval by PADEP or the County Conservation District ... if the inadvertent return is 50 gallons or greater, or of unknown quantity, or is a second or subsequent inadvertent return at an HDD location, drilling operations will be suspended until PADEP inspects the site, concludes that further drilling will not result in additional returns of 50 gallons or greater, and approves a restart of drilling operations."

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