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State wants shutdown of Mariner East 1 after sinkholes develop

Stephen Huba
| Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 4:54 p.m.
Construction workers work on the Mariner East 2 pipeline along Route 130 in Jeannette in June 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Construction workers work on the Mariner East 2 pipeline along Route 130 in Jeannette in June 2017.

A series of sinkholes recently discovered in Chester County could compromise the integrity of the Mariner East 1 pipeline, whose right-of-way is being used for the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, a state agency said Wednesday.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement petitioned the full commission for an emergency order requiring Sunoco Pipeline LP to temporarily suspend operations of the Mariner East 1 because of safety concerns.

The sinkholes occurred at three locations within 550 feet of each other along the path of the Mariner East 1 in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, the petition said.

“Needless to say, any compromise or failure of the pipeline would have dire results, and the injuries resulting therefrom would most certainly be irreparable,” the petition said.

The first sinkhole was discovered in December 2017 just south of railroad tracks used by Amtrak. The second and third sinkholes were discovered earlier in March in close proximity to the Mariner East 1 and 2 pipelines, the petition said.

Although all three sinkholes have been filled in, inspectors on Monday discovered that additional sinkholes were developing in the path of both pipelines. Mariner East 2 remains under construction in the area.

The bureau asked for an immediate order that would require Sunoco to:

• Suspend operations of Mariner East 1;

• Perform geophysical tests and analysis;

• Perform a drawdown/purge of hazardous liquids; and

• Inspect the line after the purge.

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

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