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Mariner East Construction Resumes After Pipeline Drilling Affects Well Water

Sunoco Pipeline LP resumed construction of the Mariner East (ME) 2 pipeline over the weekend after it was forced to suspend horizontal directional drilling (HDD) last week when families in southeast Pennsylvania reported that their well water was affected by the operations.

Fourteen families living near the pipeline construction in Chester County reported either losing water pressure or murky water, Sunoco spokesman Jeffrey Shields said. Operations were suspended on July 3 after the water well problems were first reported.

Shields said Sunoco has “remained in close communications” with the affected residents and made potable water and hotel accommodations available. “We have reestablished water supply to those that lost it, provided additional filtration for households experiencing cloudy water and offered additional testing to nearby households,” Shields said on Monday.

Sunoco has been working on HDD between West Whiteland and Uwchlan townships, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia. The company has tested 24 private wells and is awaiting full results. The cause of the problem is unclear, but bentonite drilling mud could have affected groundwater in the area.

Much of the 350-mile pipeline is being installed in a trench, but the company is using HDD in more populated areas. Shields said measures have been taken to stabilize the drill hole and prevent infiltration of the aquifer. Drilling resumed on Saturday, with backup water supplies in place as a precaution. “We will continue to monitor the construction and work to minimize any impacts to residents,” Shields added.

The company began building ME 2 in February after receiving key water-crossing and sedimentation permits from the state. It would transport ethane, butane and propane from processing facilities in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia for distribution to domestic and international markets.

ME 1 entered full service last year to deliver ethane and propane from western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook. A small spill of ethane and propane from that pipeline was reported earlier this year.

Sunoco also plans to proceed with a third pipeline that would run parallel to ME 2 and be installed shortly after that project is completed. The first phase of ME 2 is still expected to be complete by the end of September and the second phase is slated for completion in 2018. Combined capacity of the three ME pipelines would be up to 800,000 b/d. 

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