Monday, December 19, 2022

Oil & Gas Industry Impacts: Cambria County Family Sues Sunoco After 3 Years Of Dealing With Damage To Home, Well, Septic System, Property From Mariner East Pipeline Construction

On December 14, the Shawley Family of Jackson Township, Cambria County
filed a lawsuit in federal court against Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. following over three years of struggles to get access to clean water and a functioning septic system for their home impacted by the construction of the Mariner East Pipeline.

As a result of pipeline construction that ended on the Shawley property in late 2018, Ronald and Jane Shawley have suffered a complete loss of drinking well water and continual flooding of their home with raw sewage after Sunoco’s pipeline construction contaminated their water well and destroyed their on-lot septic system.

“Sunoco came to us back in 2017 asking to run its underground pipeline through our property and assuring us that our home and land would be safe,” said Ronald Shawley. “Since then, our lives have been a living hell; no one should have to live like this. I regret the day I ever allowed this company to step foot on our property.”

Sunoco’s pipeline construction, which runs within just 25 feet of the Shawley residence, had almost immediate impacts when their drinking water supply became contaminated after the company drilled a borehole on the property. 

While the company responded by installing a “water buffalo” and trucking in clean drinking water, the Shawley drinking water well has become completely unusable while their groundwater remains heavily contaminated.

Sunoco’s construction activities also caused a complete collapse of the Shawley on-lot septic system as heavy vehicles frequently traversed the land above it with no regard for their impact on the septic field and underground filtering of sewage. 

Hydrologists who assessed the site concluded that the compromised septic system lead to sewage in the Shawley drinking water supply and determined that the damage was so extensive that the entire system needed to be decommissioned.

The lawsuit says the company’s blatant disregard for proper construction and safety protocols have resulted in frequent instances of raw sewage backing up into the Shawley home through the kitchen sink and other areas, destroying floors, countertops and cabinetry. 

A 2021 site visit by the Township Sewage Enforcement Officer confirmed the impact Sunoco has had on the Shawley water and septic systems and the contamination of their groundwater.

The Department of Environmental Protection has also implicated Sunoco for its role in destroying the Shawley’s hydrology in a 2021 report, finding “evidence that the SPLP Mariner East 2 pipeline construction activities impacted the water source,” and recommending that Sunoco implement a contingency plan to address its adverse impacts from the “pollution event” and restore the Shawley’s water supply. 

Another DEP report from 2022 concluded that Sunoco was in violation of provisions of the state’s Clean Streams Law for its activities on the Shawley property and made several recommendations for mitigation and remediation.

DEP’s January 10, 2022 inspection report found--

-- Sunoco did not comply with its erosion and sedimentation control permit, Sediment was "still washing down the road," work area was not stabilized as required by the permit in the special protection watershed, excessive groundwater coming off the right-of-way.

-- "Water well condition inadequate," both quantity and quality

-- There are areas contaminated by "inadvertent returns" of horizontal drilling fluid from pipeline drilling

-- The location of the leach field for on-lot septic system identified by the landowner was under an access road used by heavy equipment during the construction

“Despite both the local and state government identifying Sunoco as the cause of the Shawley’s ongoing water and septic issues, the company has, to date, refused to take steps necessary to remedy the problem and restore the Shawley’s quality of life,” said John Kotsatos, attorney for the plaintiffs. “There is no defense here and, worse, there is no excuse for a multibillion-dollar company rendering someone’s home virtually uninhabitable and then trying so hard to evade responsibility.”

One of the recommendations made in the PADEP report is that Sunoco undertake an inspection and repair of the Shawley’s home drainage system to try and abate the continual flooding of the basement that has occurred since the company altered the hydrology of the property.

Constant flooding by sewage and contaminated water has not only created dangerous and unsanitary bacteria and mold infestations, but it has destroyed the Shawley heating system and other appliances. 

The couple now has to rely on an outdoor wood burning furnace to try and stay warm for the winter months.

The lawsuit seeks to recover the cost of repairing the damages to the Shawley property as outlined in the complaint, punitive damages and other relief.

The lawsuit asks for a jury trial.  If the jury decides in the Shawley family’s favor, they would determine the amount to award for repairs and damages.

“We’ve suffered enough,” said Mr. Shawley. “Our pleas to Sunoco and the state agencies have resulted in nothing but continuing hardship and misery. We are now placing our hopes in the hands of courts to try and regain our right to a safe and secure home."

Click Here for a copy of the lawsuit filing.

The Shawley Family also lives about a mile and a half from the Equitrans Rager Mountain Natural Gas Storage Area that had an uncontrolled leak of an estimated 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas in November.  Read more here.

(Photos: Diagram showing home and pipeline impacts; Pipeline right-of-way next to home;  Bottom-- continuing diversion of water from construction site; sewage backup in kitchen sink; dirty water in clothes washer; dirty water from faucet.)

Related NewsClips:

-- WJAC: Cambria County Couple Files Lawsuit Against Sunoco Over Mariner East Pipeline Construction They Said Made Their Property Nearly Uninhabitable By Eliminating Their Water Supply, Bulldozing Their Barn, Causing Sinkholes 

-- Altoona Mirror: Cambria County Couple Sue Sunoco Over Mariner Pipeline Damage; Raw Sewage Coming Into Kitchen Sink

-- Daily Local News: Legislators Hear Of Water Woes From Mariner Pipeline Neighbors [Oct. 2021]

-- Brown Water In Faucets Drives PA Legislators’ Demand To Pull Mariner Pipeline Operating Permits [Oct. 2021]

-- Delaware Valley Journal: PA Lawmakers Call For Shutdown Of Mariner East Pipeline Based On Water Impacts  [Oct. 2021]

-- ChesCo: Event To Protect Water Rights For Pennsylvanians Affected By Mariner East Pipeline [Oct. 2021]

Related Articles - Oil & Gas Industry Impacts:

-- Center For Coalfield Justice Holds First Water Distribution Day Nov. 19 To Help Provide Families Drinking Water In Greene County Following Alleged ‘Frack-Out’ At Natural Gas Well Site In June [PaEN]

-- Washington County Family Lawsuit Alleges Shale Gas Company Violated The Terms Of Their Lease By Endangering Their Health, Contaminating Their Water Supply And Not Protecting Their Land  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Natural Gas Drilling: An Industrial Machine Moving Across The PA Countryside Leaving Behind Big Liabilities & Spreading Pollution Everywhere It Goes  [8.3.22]

-- Better Path Coalition: 65 Organizations, Businesses, 2,700+ Individuals Petition Gov.-Elect Shapiro To Ban Road Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater  [12.12.22]

-- Citizen Complaints Result In DEP Issuing PA General Energy More Violations At Loyalsock Creek Gas Pipeline/Water Withdrawal Construction Site In Lycoming County  [PaEN] 

-- Presentations Now Available From Shale Gas & Public Health Conference In Nov. Hosted By PA League Of Women Voters & University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health  [PaEN

-- Senate Hearing: Body Of Evidence Is 'Large, Growing,’ ‘Consistent’ And 'Compelling' That Shale Gas Development Is Having A Negative Impact On Public Health; PA Must Act  [PaEN]

Related Articles - PA’s Experience With Natural Gas Pipelines:

-- AG Shapiro: Energy Transfer/Sunoco Convicted Of Criminal Charges Related To Construction Of Mariner East 2 & Revolution Natural Gas/Liquids Pipelines In PA [PaEN]

-- AG Shapiro: Free Water Evaluations Begin For Homeowners Affected By Construction Of Mariner East 2 Natural Gas Liquids Pipeline  [PaEN]

-- House Committee Fails To Address $70 Million In Penalties On Natural Gas Pipelines Or Real Concerns Of People Living Near Gas Production & Distribution Facilities  [PaEN]

-- Natural Gas, Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Are NOT Required To Carry Insurance Or Show They Can Pay For Damages If They Explode, Leak Or Kill Someone [PaEN]

-- PA's Brand New Natural Gas Pipeline Exploded in 2018 in Beaver County  [PaEN]

Related NewsClips This Week:

-- PA Capital-Star Guest Essay: It’s Time Pennsylvania Residents, Regulators Demand Health Risks From Shale Gas Fracking Be Addressed - By Clean Air Council

-- TribLive Guest Essay: I’ve Seen Firsthand How Harmful Methane Pollution From Oil & Gas Industry Can Affect Our Health - Physicians For Social Responsibility Pennsylvania

-- Bob Donnan Blog: Is The Public Being ‘Dimocked’ Again On Shale Gas?

Related Article This Week:

-- Oil & Gas Industry Impacts: Families Affected By Alleged ‘Frack-Out’ In Greene County Have A Little Happier Holiday Thanks To Water Donated By Center For Coalfield Justice  [PaEN]

-- League Of Women Voters, Partners Host Jan. 12 Webinar On LNG Natural Gas Export Terminal Safety  [PaEN]

-- Republican Herald Editorial: Gas Industry Appeased Too Long [PaEN] 

[Posted: December 19, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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