Pipeline drilling at Snitz Creek in Lebanon County to resume despite risk

Written by Daniel Walmer/The Lebanon Daily News | Jul 26, 2018 10:53 AM
Snitz Creek pipeline construction.jpg

This view from North Cornwall Road shows the progress of pipeline construction. A bridge spans Snitz Creek. (Michael K. Dakota/Lebanon Daily News)

(Lebanon) -- The builders of the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline have been cleared to resume drilling at Snitz Creek in West Cornwall Township, despite an engineer's acknowledgment that the spot is risky for more spills of drilling mud.

Construction has been halted on at least seven occasions at the creek crossing near Zinns Mill Road, most recently on June 27. On each occasion, the stoppage was caused by spills of "drilling mud," a mixture of water and bentonite clay.

In a July 9 report, engineers from Rettew suggested new construction methods that they hope will prevent future spills. But, they noted, the area remains a "medium to high risk" for such spills because of its geology and the possible presence of shallow groundwater.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection approved the restart on Monday evening, according to an email a DEP spokesman sent to local pipeline watchdog Pam Bishop. The approval includes various conditions, including practices designed to contain any drilling mud spills.

The DEP also noted that it received a complaint on June 21 about two private water supplies near the drilling area. Sunoco must monitor the wells and submit a report "sealed by (a) qualified Pennsylvania licensed professional geologist" following the completion of pipeline construction at the Snitz Creek site.

When completed, the Mariner East 2 pipeline is designed to transport natural gas liquids from western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. 

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Lebanon Daily News.

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