- Wed May 24, 2017 2:25 pm
Brookhaven seeks answers about Sunoco spill
Brookhaven resident Beth King questions Sunoco Logistics officials during a Monday night meeting about a bentonite spill in the Chester Creek. More than two dozen citizens attended the meeting to voice concerns over the company’s Mariner East 2 pipeline. LORETTA RODGERS — DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA
By Loretta Rodgers, Times Correspondent
POSTED: 05/23/17, 9:23 PM EDT | UPDATED: 4 SECS AGO 0 COMMENTS
BROOKHAVEN >> More than two dozen residents attended the borough council workshop meeting Monday night in an attempt to get answers about a bentonite spill into the Chester Creek at the beginning of the month.
Approximately 600 gallons of the material, which has been described as cat litter in appearance, spilled into the creek. The lubricant material is being used in horizontal direction drilling that Sunoco Logistics is using in connection with the Mariner East 2 pipeline.
The first incident occurred May 3 when Sunoco was working in the front yards of two homes on Creek Road. The lubricant seeped into the creek via a storm drain. An additional leak of about 30 gallons occurred on May 4, but stayed on the ground. And and six days later, approximately 75 gallons seeped from the creek bed.
Prior to the council meeting, representatives of Sunoco Logistics and the state Department of Environmental Protection met with Brookhaven officials, who were unhappy about not being immediately informed of the leaks.
“I apologize to the borough for not contacting you immediately ... It’s our mistake,” said Jeff Shields, Sunoco Logistics communications manager. Please know that bentonite clay is non-toxic and approved by the PADEP for use in this kind of drilling. It is used to lubricate and cool the drill head ... in this kind of drilling you can get inadvertent returns, which allows the clay to come back up through the hole. We are required by the PADEP to have a plan to respond to inadvertent returns and that is what we did.”
The DEP’s Dominic Rocco, in response to a residents question, stated that a notice of violation was filed against Sunoco Logistics, citing the inadvertent release of bentonite. He added that there were no fines levied.
Sunoco was given five days to clean the spills.
Sunoco representatives and members of borough council said the pipeline will not go directly through the borough, but that did not ease residents concerns.
Brian Barrish asked why borough residents were not notified in writing or via leaflet about the spills. He was told the leaks did not have the kind of detrimental impact that was potentially harmful to the community, and therefore personal notification was not necessary.
“Brookhaven council had no knowledge of this until just recently,” said Mayor Mike Hess. “Our maintenance people went down there and saw the issue and that’s when we started making calls. We found out about it on our own.”
Residents were eventually notified via the borough website, which stated: “Bentonite was pumped to fill any voids created by the drilling and apparently followed a fracture in the rock and started to bubble out.”
Lincoln Drive resident Steve Carr asked questions about potential soil infiltration and whether the ground could have been weakened and eventually result in sink holes.
Christina Johnson questioned both Sunoco and state officials about health risks, especially possible issues due to dust. She was told all actions related to the drilling and the pipeline has been approved the DEP.
“There is no inhalation hazard,” said a representative of the DEP.
Questions were also raised about the impact on wildlife.
Council President John Wilwert Jr. said the borough engineer will inspect the entire area prior to the conclusion of the project.
“We are not just going to say do what ever you want,” Wilwert said. “We are down there and our inspectors are there.”
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” ~Upton Sinclair