The builders of the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline told the West Cornwall Township, PA, supervisors they would resume drilling at Snitz Creek last Thursday.
Construction that day lasted until 10 a.m. before another environmental incident.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) then called a halt to drilling at the site after learning of the about 50 gallons of “drilling mud” and groundwater that entered the creek, according to a DEP notice of violation.
“We’re a little bit frustrated,” township supervisor David Lloyd said about what he called the “latest debacle” of pipeline construction.
Sunoco contractors had spilled “drilling mud” – a non-toxic mix of water and bentonite clay – into the creek on at least three previous occasions. The DEP halted Mariner East 2 construction statewide in January because of environmental concerns, but allowed Sunoco to resume Feb. 8 after slapping the company with a $12.6 million fine.
“Our understanding is that they were to come back to DEP with a plan that this wouldn’t happen,” Lloyd said. “It sounds like business as always.”
Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields has previously said Sunoco works with DEP to ensure the environment is protected.
“We did experience an inadvertent return of an estimated 50 gallons of drilling mud in Snitz Creek on Thursday,” Shields said. “Drilling was immediately stopped, the mud was contained and removed, and the DEP was notified.”
When completed, the Mariner East 2 pipeline will transport natural gas liquids from West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, and Ohio to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. Most of the pipeline is being placed in open trenches, but horizontal drilling is used in areas, such as waterways, where an open trench is not feasible.
The DEP’s notice of violation requires Sunoco to complete an analysis of what went wrong and how it will prevent future incidents and receive DEP approval before resuming drilling operations.