Sunoco will pay a $4 million penalty and dredge part of a popular Chester County lake that was contaminated by a spill during the installation of a section of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
The settlement was announced by the Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and will require the pipeline company to dredge a cove in the 535-acre Marsh Creek Lake in southeastern Pennsylvania to remove sediment.
In August 2020, drilling fluids and mud spilled into the lake while the company was installing a section of the pipeline using hydraulic directional drilling, where machinery bores a hole under the ground using a mud made of bentonite clay and fluids to lubricate the drill bit. The clay can kill small aquatic life.
The spill was just one incident in the project’s troubled history. The 350-mile long pipeline project is being built to move natural gas and gas products from the Marcellus shale basin in southwestern Pennsylvania across the Commonwealth to a terminal in Marcus Hook near Philadelphia. There have been multiple fines issued to Sunoco for previous spills and other violations.
In October, Attorney General Josh Shapiro charged Energy Transfer, Sunoco’s parent company, with 48 counts of committing environmental crimes during the construction of the Mariner East 2 for failing to report spills. Early estimates of the Marsh Creek Lake spill were that 8,100 gallons of fluid spilled into the lake, but later numbers found the spill was much larger, with between 21,000 and 28,000 gallons of fluid escaping.
The settlement agreement requires Sunoco to:
· Dredge at minimum the top 6 inches of sediment in about 15 acres of Ranger Cove. The work is expected to begin in April 2022 and be completed by July 2022.
· Replace all fish, turtle, and bird habitat structures impacted by dredging.
· Dewater and transport all dredging material from the lake and restore the shoreline and streamside forest buffers.
· Post a $4 million bond to ensure the performance of its obligations.
· Pay $4 million dollars for natural resource damages to be used by DCNR for rehabilitation and improvements to the park, including an accessible boat launch, stream and shoreline restoration, invasive species suppression, efficiency measures that will take the park to net-zero energy, and add a public visitor center to the park office.
· Pay a civil penalty of $341,000 for permit violations that will be paid to the Clean Water Fund
As part of the agreement, DEP approved major changes to permits allowing the company to resume construction of the section using a new route and an open-trench method of installation.