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Here's what to expect during Sunoco pipeline construction

Written by Daniel Walmer/Lebanon Daily News | Jul 7, 2017 9:23 AM

 

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Construction for the Sunoco Mariner East pipeline continues on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (Photo: Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News)

 

Few complaints yet from residents - but it's still early

(Lebanon) -- Pieces of the Mariner East natural gas liquids pipeline now form a solid line across the landscape of Lebanon County, but there are several steps remaining before the pipe will be securely in the ground - a process not likely to be completed until at least September.

According to pipeline owner Sunoco Logistics, laying the pipeline above ground is just the first stage of the process. Here are the other steps:

  • Trees will be removed and soil will be graded as necessary
  • Crews will weld together the sections of pipeline
  • A trench will be excavated and the soil stockpiled
  • The pipe will be lowered into the trench
  • The previously removed soil will be backfiled over the trench
  • Crews will test the structural integrity of the pipe
  • The right-of-way will be restored to "previous condition, wherever possible"

In sensitive areas like roads and wetlands, Sunoco will instead drill underneath the surface to create a path through which the pipeline can be fed.

Sunoco will build two pipelines as part of its Mariner East 2 project. When completed, they will transport natural gas liquids from Marcellus Shale-rich areas in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia.

The 20-inch line should be completed by the end of September in Lebanon, Lancaster and Berks counties, while the 16-inch line will likely not be finished until 2018, Sunoco said in a June newsletter.

Two pipelines will likely soon cross the Lebanon County landscape. Here's what to expect during pipeline construction. By Daniel Walmer

In most areas, crews will complete the 20-inch line throughout Lebanon, Lancaster and Berks counties first, then separate crews will follow to install the 16-inch line, Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said. In wetlands and other sensitive areas, both pipelines will be installed simultaneously to minimize disturbance.

There may be some temporary flagging on roadways as heavy equipment is moved, but Sunoco does not expect any "significant closures or long-term traffic alterations" in Lebanon County, it said in the newsletter.

"What I have heard has all been positive"

Lebanon County residents say there's hasn't been much to complain about so far from the about 800 Sunoco pipeline workers covering the Lancaster, Lebanon and Berks county areas. 

At least 50 percent of the workers belong to local union halls, but traveling workers stay in local hotels, campgrounds, or other long-term accommodations, Shields said.

"I've heard very little, but what I have heard has all been positive - that the workers were willing to go beyond anything that might be expected of them and do little special things for the landowners," said Don Umberger, secretary of South Annville Township, which the pipeline will cross as it traverses Lebanon County from west to east. Cornwall Borough and the townships of South Londonderry, West Cornwall, South Lebanon and Heidelberg are also impacted.

Cornwall Borough Manager Steve Danz said he also hasn't heard complaints and property owners say the pipeline workers are cleaning up after themselves.

That doesn't mean that everyone is happy.

Heidelberg Township resident Jerry Thomas, who contested Sunoco's right to run its pipeline through his 6 Oxford Drive property, doesn't enjoy living in a construction zone.

In fact, he's been so bothered with the noise and interruptions to his normally quiet, rural neighborhood that he almost regrets not getting enough money in his settlement with Sunoco to sell the home and move. The process has been messier, louder, and involved a lot more workers than Thomas expected.

"It's just very overwhelming and a little depressing for us," he said. "It would have made a lot more sense had they gone around us, in open fields where they weren't bugging people."

Installing the pipeline required cutting into portions of his driveway, and Thomas has security concerns about having dozens of strangers on his property each day.

However, he hasn't seen crews do anything wrong, and they've even taken steps like replanting a favorite tree that had to be removed for the pipeline instillation. The right-of-way agent has been helpful in coordinating communication between him and the construction crews.

"I have to pretty much complain to get things done, but then things do get done," he said.

Michael Schroeder of pipeline watchdog group Lebanon Pipeline Awareness said he's heard complaints in other counties about possible environmental violations. However, he isn't yet aware of any specific complaints in Lebanon County.

Lebanon's pipeline watchdog groups will be holding a workshop this Saturday for people who have indicated interest in monitoring pipeline construction. The names of the monitors will then be provided to county officials and the group will begin scrutinizing the constructions of properties that have given them permission.

Shields, meanwhile, said Sunoco hasn't had any problems with protesters or property owners in Lebanon County so far during the construction process.

Sunoco has established a 24-hour hotline number related to pipeline construction at 610-925-4920 and has a 24-hour information line at 855-430-4491. People with concerns about stream and wetlands crossings can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection at 484-250-5900.

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

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