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Pipeline builder spills 50 gallons of drilling mud in Snitz Creek near Lebanon

Written by Daniel Walmer/The Lebanon Daily News | Sep 7, 2017 10:15 AM
Snitz-Creek-spill-01.jpg

Snitz creek runs under Tice Lane near N. Cornwall Rd. (Photo: Michael K. Dakota, Lebanon Daily News)

(Lebanon) -- About 50 gallons of drilling mud were spilled into Snitz Creek south of Lebanon, according to a list of "inadvertent returns" from Mariner East 2 pipeline construction released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Sunoco is in the process of constructing the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which will transport natural gas liquids from western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia.

The Snitz Creek spill was located between Zinns Mill and Quentin roads near the border of West Cornwall Township and Cornwall, according to the DEP report. It has been stopped, and containment and cleanup are "in progress."

A DEP spokesman did not respond Wednesday to a request for additional information about the spill and whether it caused any environmental harm.

Such spills can occur when a pipeline builder uses drilling techniques to install the pipeline, typically under roadways or in areas where digging an open trench would create environmental challenges.

The drilling mud is a mixture of water and bentonite clay that is considered non-toxic. However, drilling practices were blamed on dirty or reduced water flow at several wells in Chester County in July.

Sunoco was sued by several environmental groups, leading to an Aug. 9 court-authorized consent agreement in which Sunoco said it would re-examine the geology of areas impacted by horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and notify landowners before resuming drilling.

Neil Shader, a DEP spokesman, told StateImpact Pennsylvania in an article published Wednesday that Sunoco violated permit conditions modified by that agreement in relation to two drilling mud spills in the Susquehanna River in Dauphin County about five miles south of Harrisburg (unrelated to the Lebanon County spill).

The DEP issued a notice of violation to Sunoco on Aug. 30, alleging that Sunoco did not halt drilling after the spill to the Susquehanna River as required by the permits. It also said Sunoco failed to properly inform the pertinent DEP regional office.

Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields told StateImpact that Sunoco was in compliance with the agreement, but did not elaborate.

Shields did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment by the Lebanon Daily News regarding the Snitz Creek spill.

He previously told StateImpact that some inadvertent returns are "not unexpected" and Sunoco is working with DEP to ensure that the environment is protected.

Overall, there have been four drilling mud spills since Sunoco resumed horizontal directional drilling following the Aug. 9 court agreement, according to DEP's list.

 

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