ShareThis Page
Westmoreland

Spill sites for Sunoco pipeline in Westmoreland County under evaluation

Stephen Huba
| Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, 3:51 p.m.
A relief well was created by pipeline contractors to stop the release of bentonite slurry at the recreational area at Loyalhanna Lake and is seen on Friday, July 21, 2017.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
A relief well was created by pipeline contractors to stop the release of bentonite slurry at the recreational area at Loyalhanna Lake and is seen on Friday, July 21, 2017.

Five problematic drilling sites for the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Westmoreland County are being re-evaluated by Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, the company building the 350-mile pipeline across the state.

Only two of the five sites, however, have made any progress with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and its court-ordered review process, according to a DEP spreadsheet.

In August, the state Environmental Hearing Board ordered Sunoco to re-evaluate 63 sites, including five in Westmoreland County, where horizontal directional drilling had led to spills of a drilling lubricant.

Sunoco described the spills as “inadvertent returns” of bentonite, a nontoxic mix of clay and water that is used as a drill-bit lubricant during horizontal directional drilling.

Horizontal drilling is used to lay pipe under roads, waterways, wetlands, wildlife habitats and other areas. Fluid returns occur when drilling mud seeps to the surface through underground fissures. Such spills can get into local well water and can result in a loss of water pressure and water clouding.

As part of a settlement with three environmental groups, the Environmental Hearing Board ordered Sunoco to re-examine the geology of the spill sites to determine whether horizontal drilling can continue or whether other construction methods should be used.

In Westmoreland County, the two sites currently under re-evaluation are:

• The Norfolk Southern railroad crossing in Penn Borough, Jeannette and Hempfield; and

• The Hildenbrand Road crossing in Sewickley Township.

The other three Westmoreland sites included in the re-evaluation order are:

• Gombach Road;

• Loyalhanna Lake National Recreation Area; and

• Livermore Road.

The DEP documented 20 cases of inadvertent returns in Westmoreland County between May 4 and Sept. 22, 2017.

Construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline began in February 2017 and is now scheduled for completion in the second quarter of 2018.

Sunoco is installing two lines — 16 and 20 inches in diameter — that will carry pressurized propane, ethane and butane from the Marcellus Shale across the state. The destination for the natural gas liquids is the Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook near Philadelphia.

In Westmoreland County, the pipeline traverses Sewickley, Hempfield, Penn, Salem, Loyalhanna and Derry townships.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me