The Mariner East pipeline on Aug. 13 dumped 20 gallons of industrial waste into Snitz Creek, according to a notice filed later that day by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The spill follows a few days after a much larger accident in Chester County.

A notice sent by DEP to Matthew Gordon, senior director of operations for the Energy Transfer/Sunoco pipeline project, cites the “inadvertent return of drilling fluids” into the creek in West Cornwall Township (PDF).

The discharge of industrial waste into Pennsylvania waterways without a permit is a violation of the Clean Streams Law, the letter says.

The letter orders Energy Transfer to document the steps taken to contain and remove the wastewater from the creek, along with “a plan for any additional remedial measures necessary to complete remediation,” by Thursday, Aug. 20.

The letter also notes that work cannot resume on the project without DEP approval.

“If the Department determines that an enforcement action is appropriate, you will be notified of the action,” the letter concludes.

The letter was signed by Ronald C. Eberts Jr., an environmental protection compliance specialist of the department’s Conservation, Restoration, and Inspection Section, Waterways & Wetlands Program. It was copied to representatives to the Lebanon County Conservation District, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, West Cornwall Township and several other officials of the Sunoco pipeline partnership.

Earlier this month, according to a report by StateImpact Pennsylvania, Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline construction spilled an estimated 10,000 gallons of drilling mud, or bentonite clay, into Marsh Creek and Marsh Creek Lake at a state park in Chester County.

The Department of Environmental Protection shut down two underground drilling sites in West Whiteland and Upper Uwchlan townships, pending an investigation, the report said. The lake is a popular recreation site and provides drinking water for Chester County residents, although it was not immediately clear if any drinking water supplies were affected.

Bentonite clay is nontoxic, but in large quantities, it can have an impact on smaller aquatic life.

News of the local spill drew criticism from grassroots watchdog Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County (CCLC).

In a letter to CCLC members, leaders Pam Bishop and Doug Lorenzen said a tanker truck was parked on Aug. 14 on North Cornwall Road, near the intersection with Route 72, “presumably pumping water out of the creek as part of the ‘clean up.'”

“This area is limestone geology, criss-crossed with fractures, solution channels and caverness [sic] groundwater pockets,” they noted.

They also said in the letter that, during construction of a parallel pipeline at the same site in 2017 and 2018, “there were at least seven discharges of drilling mud,” for which DEP also issued notices of violation to Sunoco.

Read More: How much does the Mariner East Pipeline threaten Lebanon’s Snitz Creek aquifer?

The project, they said, “has been plagued with drilling mud spills … across the 350-mile pipeline.”

The $3 billion natural gas liquids pipeline project began construction in February 2017. Since then, according to previous reports, the DEP has issued about 100 violations to the company for polluting high-value wetlands, waterways and private wells.

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette illustration from 2017 shows drilling fluid spills up until that time period. 

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Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.


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