Pennsylvania DEP: Violations Occurred During Mariner East 2 Construction

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The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has released details of oversight activities for the Mariner East 2 Pipeline Project.

To date, four Notices of Violation have been issued for the project. Additionally, one Consent Order and Agreement has been executed, with a penalty of $87,600 for a violation that impacted a wetland area next to Interstate 81 in Cumberland County. A detailed list of incidents related to construction of the pipeline will be available early next week, and will be updated weekly on the DEP website at http://www.dep.pa.gov/Business/ProgramIntegration/Pennsylvania-Pipeline-Portal/Pages/Mariner-East-II.aspx.

“With so much concern about the Mariner East 2 pipeline the public needs to know that DEP is taking its oversight and regulatory enforcement role seriously,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “This project has raised questions about public health and the health of the environment, and it is important to be transparent about the issues that have arisen over the course of the construction.”

Notices of Violation were issued in 2 of the 17 counties along the pipeline route for impacts to waters of the commonwealth from inadvertent returns associated with the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) operations. Violations involving “inadvertent returns” refer to incidents in the course of HDD in which the drilling fluid, a mix of water and bentonite clay used to lubricate the drill bit. The drilling fluid is non-toxic and is not expected to have any lasting effects on impacted waters of the commonwealth. The permits issued specifically limit the use of additives in drilling fluids to an approved list that complies with drinking water standards.

All reported inadvertent returns are inspected by DEP or county conservation districts. As part of the permitting process, Energy Transfer Partners was required and DEP approved a plan for responding to inadvertent returns. Additionally, DEP included special conditions in the permits related to how the company would address inadvertent returns. The permit requires Energy Transfer Partners to visually monitor the ground surface along the path of the HDD while drilling operations are occurring. If an inadvertent return is discovered, then drilling shall immediately cease. DEP has no evidence at this time that Energy Transfer Partners has not complied with this permit condition.

Pennsylvania law does not regulate private drinking water well construction or require private well owners to register their wells. Therefore, there is no comprehensive or reliable database or resource related to the location or condition of private water wells for DEP to utilize to protect private water supplies during permitting. Nonetheless, DEP evaluated potential impacts to private water supplies as part of normal permit application review process. For the Mariner East 2 permits, DEP included special conditions related to private drinking water wells that go beyond existing state law requirements. The permits are among the most stringent DEP has ever issued for this type of construction activity related to protection of private drinking water wells.

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