State regulators have rejected West Goshen Township’s request for an emergency hearing to block construction of a valve-control station for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, saying the hotly contested matter will be addressed at a previously scheduled hearing Tuesday.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Wednesday ratified a letter sent to West Goshen on Tuesday, declining to immediately address the dispute over Sunoco Pipeline’s valve station. West Goshen says that Sunoco began work on the contested facility on Boot Road near Greenhill Road in violation of a 2015 agreement.
The township says the valve station should be located on Boot Road on the west side of Route 202, where Sunoco already operates a pump station for its Mariner East 1 pipeline. Sunoco said it had notified the township of plans to relocate the facility to the new location, east of Route 202, because it would be “more prudent and safe.” Sunoco also maintains that the relocation complies with the 2015 agreement with the township.
The PUC declined to take immediate action, noting that “the facts are vigorously disputed by the parties.” The issue, part of a long-standing case between the township and Sunoco, will be addressed Tuesday in Harrisburg before a PUC administrative law judge.
The dust-up is the latest in a series of controversies Sunoco has encountered over its $2.5 billion, 350-mile-long Mariner East project to transport gas liquids from Marcellus Shale fields in Western Pennsylvania to a terminal in Marcus Hook.
The Newtown Square company, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners LP, this week appears to have calmed an outbreak of anxiety in another Chester County community, where construction of the pipeline last week impaired the private wells of about a dozen residences.
On Tuesday, Sunoco agreed to pay for the extension of Aqua Pennsylvania’s public water service to an enclave of homes in West Whiteland Township where residents said their private water wells had gone cloudy or were interrupted after the company began drilling beneath the neighborhood.
That neighborhood near Township Line Road is one of five locations in West Whiteland where Sunoco is conducting horizontal directional drilling, said George Turner, a township supervisor. Rather than cutting trenches through congested neighborhoods, Sunoco is threading much of its 20-inch-diameter pipeline under lawns, streets, and streams through lateral bore holes it is drilling through the bedrock.
The drilling method apparently disturbed the aquifer serving the neighborhood of homes built around 1960, one of the last remaining areas of West Whiteland still served by private wells rather than municipal water, Turner said.
Tests conducted on cloudy water indicated the turbidity was not caused by bentonite clay used as drilling mud in the construction, as first suspected, Turner said. Rather, he said, experts believe the cloudiness was the result of silt in the private wells that was stirred up by changes in the aquifer caused by the drilling.
West Whiteland told residents that the cloudy water was not a health concern, but Turner said the township insisted that Sunoco pay to extend public water mains to head off any potential future concerns about water quality.
Residents do not have to hook up to the new water service, he said, and Sunoco is negotiating with residents individually to support the cost of water service if they become utility customers.
The new water mains will have an added benefit for the township, Turner said.
“I’m also the township’s fire chief, and I’m happy because we’ll be getting two more hydrants out of the deal,” he said.