Sinking Feeling: West Whiteland battles sinkholes tied to pipeline construction
By Bill Rettew, firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: 03/04/18, 6:01 PM EST | UPDATED: 13 SECS AGO 0 COMMENTS
Sunoco workers use concrete to fill a sinkhole in East Whiteland Township that was likely created by drilling for the Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline.
WEST WHITELAND >> After a third swimming-pool-sized sinkhole opened up on the same block, residents who have been in their home for just six months were evacuated early Saturday morning.
Residents of the area and opponents of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which is being constructed in the township, did not waste any time in connecting the two situations.
The sinkholes, which have developed in the 400 block of Lisa Drive, are believed due to construction of the Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline. The first gaping hole developed in mid-November, four houses away in the backyard of T.J. Allen at 479 Lisa Dr. On Saturday they problem was at 491 Lisa Drive.
Sunoco workers were busy mulching a large tree that was cut down on Sunday after filling in the sinkholes with concrete.
Bystanders counted nine cement trucks used to plug the holes, which are just feet away from the 1930’s era and active Mariner East 1 pipeline. A standard cement truck holds about 10 cubic yards of concrete.
With the Mariner East 2 Pipeline under construction, all three pipelines will share much of the same 350-mile long right-of-way as pipelines zig-zag from Marcellus shale deposits in West Virginia, Ohio and Western Pennsylvania to the former Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.
One operational, Sunoco Pipeline says Mariner East 2 will carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of ethane, butane, and propane from across the full width of Pennsylvania - including big chunks of Chester and Delaware counties - as it heads to Marcus Hook.
John Matia’s home, at 483 Lisa Drive, is sandwiched between the two directly impacted homes. Much of his backyard is cordoned off with orange fencing.
“How dangerous is it to have sinkholes opening up at an active pipeline?” Matia asked, “This is surreal. How ridiculous is this situation?
“Just the disruption! This is not what they told me it was. I’m totally concerned with property values.”
A spokesperson for Sunoco Pipeline said the pipeline driller responded to the scene Saturday.
“We did take immediate action (Saturday) to successfully stabilize and mitigate three areas along our right-of-way,” said the spokesperson. “There was a total of two properties involved.
“We injected an approved liquid concrete mix or sometimes referred to as ‘flowable fill’ into holes that were created by soil movement. This action has been completed and all areas have been secured.
“We have been in close communication with DEP, the township and importantly, the landowners. We continue to be onsite to monitor the situation and begin restoration efforts.”
David Mano is also a West Whiteland resident and had his well water impacted by Sunoco. About 30 of his neighbors accepted Sunoco’s offer to hook up residents to public water and pay each homeowner $60,000. Mano refused the offer and is still using his well water. Lisa Drive residents use public water.
“It’s not fixing the problem, they’re just putting a Band-Aid on it,” Mano said.
Caroline Hughes, spokesperson for Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety, said that the pipeline is being built through areas of highly unstable geology.
The Mariner East 1 Pipeline, and both proposed pipelines run, or are set to run, beneath Amtrak tracks about 250 feet from Allen’s home.
“Sinkholes have been responsible for many road closures over the years, especially in Chester County,” Hughes said. “This rock is inherently unstable, and the Amtrak tracks that are mere feet from the latest sinkhole brings about yet another public safety concern.
“Sunoco’s response (Saturday) was to simply pour large amounts of concrete into the three sinkholes. We are sacrificing our property values, losing our wells, and risking our lives for the sake of Sunoco’s financial gain. Sunoco continues to demonstrate that their only concern is trying to beat a deadline for investors.”
Sunoco announced last week that the Mariner East 2 Pipeline is targeted to be operational by the end of June.