Lawmaker calls for investigation after latest Sunoco pipeline sinkhole

Ian Bush
January 20, 2019 - 11:37 pm

Courtesy of Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety

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West Whiteland Township, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) -- The Mariner East 1 in Chester County was temporarily shut down on Sunday after a sinkhole exposed part of the pipeline. West Whiteland Township police blamed a water drainage failure, but a local legislator has more systemic concerns.

Around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Chester County authorities say they were notified about a sinkhole on a property in the 400 block of Lisa Drive, just south of the 30 Bypass and the Amtrak/SEPTA rail line.

Officials say the five-foot wide by ten-foot deep sinkhole -- which opened after heavy rain over the weekend -- "left the pipeline exposed but undamaged."

Photos of it were posted to the Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety Facebook page.

"The residents understandably are upset," says State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19th District). "This is in the same location as the last time that a Mariner pipeline was exposed."

The Democrat says pipeline neighbors have no confidence in the state Public Utility Commission or in Energy Transfer Partners. The Mariner East Operator says it's working with the PUC and geologists to evaluate the hole.

Dinniman is calling for the pipelines to be shut down until an independent investigation takes place.

READ: Chester County DA's office appoints special prosecutor in pipeline investigationI

"Perhaps the legislature needs to order this, perhaps PEMA [the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency> needs to order this -- because citizens have a right to be assured that they're living next door to a safe pipeline," Dinniman says. "The PUC has to understand that this is not the type of geology that you should ever have a pipeline going through."

In a statement, Energy Transfer Partners says that "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. Additionally, pipeline crews will actively monitor all Mariner East rights-of-ways in the area to ensure they remain safe and secure."

In a press release, Bill Turner, Deputy Director for Emergency Management for Chester County, stated, "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.”

Last month, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced a criminal investigation into the construction and safety of the Mariner East liquid natural gas pipelines.