Thursday, February 22, 2024

Citizen Complaint Leads DEP To Breakout Of Mariner East Pipeline Drilling Mud That Contaminated The Lake At Marsh Creek State Park, Chester County; Sunoco Pipeline Starts Cleanup

In response to a citizen complaint on February 15, DEP inspected a tributary that feeds the lake at
Marsh Creek State Park in Chester County on February 16 and found a clay-like material contaminating the stream and a portion of the nearby wetlands.

DEP’s inspection report said the area is the same location where a sinkhole developed and an “inadvertent return” of drilling mud used in the construction of the Energy Transfer/Sunoco Mariner East Pipeline occurred in August 2020.

DEP’s report added, “It is possible that remaining bentonite in the soil column at this previous inadvertent return location has been pushed to the surface by the rising water table.”

The inspector took a sample of the material for analysis.

On February 22, DEP Press Secretary Neil Shader said, “The samples collected by DEP are being analyzed by Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. (SPLP), a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners.”

Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. “applied for and received an emergency Chapter 105 permit to conduct cleanup operations,” according to Shader.

“These operations will involve removing material from the tributary by hand and will not involve any heavy machinery. SPLP estimates around five days for the cleanup.” 

“DEP inspectors will check the site daily during the cleanup and someone from DEP was out there this morning to check the cleanup,” said Shader.

Christina Digiulio, a local resident and Field Scientist with the Physicians for Social Responsibility of Pennsylvania, took video of the contaminated area on February 20 to show the extent of the new contamination.  

Click Here to watch some of the spill video.

Click Here to watch video from 2.23.24 start of cleanup by Energy Transfer.

On Tuesday, James Wassell, Park Operations Manager for Marsh Creek State Park, provided an update on the contamination to Sen. Katie Muth (D-Chester) and Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Chester) who represent the area--

“We wanted to inform you both of an incident that happened late last week regarding the [inadvertent] return near Marsh Creek.

“A local homeowner reported a white clay-like substance in the creek. DEP dispatched staff immediately to investigate.

“Upon investigation, DEP did find a white clay-like substance in the lake and traced it back to the area of the original inadvertent return.

“This clay-like substance does look like bentonite and samples were taken to evaluate.  At this time, we have not been provided with a timeline for when the sample results are expected to be returned.

“Energy Transfer [Mariner East II Pipeline operator] was contacted and they installed a turbidity curtain on Friday to stop the contaminate from entering the Lake.

“This is an ongoing investigation being led by DEP and supported by DCNR and we will work in partnership to keep you updated as information arises.”


The discharge in 2020 of an estimated 100,000 gallons of drilling mud contaminated Marsh Creek State Park Lake and resulted in Energy Transfer/Sunoco paying $4 million in natural resources damages and a $341,000 civil penalty and doing what was thought to be an extensive cleanup.  Read more here.

DEP also ordered Energy Transfer to reroute about a mile of the Mariner East Pipeline to avoid the sinkhole and contaminated area.  Read more here.


Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee, Sen. Katie Muth (D-Chester), and Rep. Danielle Friel-Otten (D-Chester) released the following statement in response to news that what appears to be bentonite clay related to the construction of the Mariner East Pipeline has resurfaced near a drilling site and contaminated the Marsh Creek Lake and its tributaries-- 

“Nearly two years after Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners completed drilling operations near Marsh Creek State Park, the aftermath of pipeline construction continues to impact our streams and waterways in Chester County. 

“It’s unfortunately not surprising that drilling mud appears to be resurfacing and again contaminating the tributaries of Marsh Creek Lake. 

“Given that Sunoco/ETP had so many problems constructing its pipeline in this geologically complex and environmentally sensitive area, it was only a matter of time. 

“Remember, this is the same place where we experienced sinkholes and spills during pipeline construction. It’s the same place where Sunoco/ETP allowed thousands of gallons of drilling fluid to spill into our wetlands and even more to be lost into the ground.

“This is an important reminder that the environmental and health impacts of pipeline construction don’t end when a pipeline is done. 

“Long after work crews pack up and leave, we must continue to monitor problematic sites for negative impacts related to construction and operation and hold operators accountable for the ongoing costs of remediation, mitigation, and restoration.

“How many times will we be dealing with lingering impacts like these? How long has this been occurring? Again, there are more questions than answers.

“Please know that we are working together to obtain more information from DEP and ensure that this cleanup is completed with minimal disruption to the stream, wetlands, and wildlife. 

"As always, we want to thank the vigilant citizens who detected the contamination and reported it.”

Visit DEP’s Marsh Creek Lake webpage for more background on earlier actions.

For more information on environmental programs in Pennsylvania, visit DEP’s website, Report Emergencies, Submit Environmental Complaints; Click Here to sign up for DEP’s newsletter; sign up for DEP’s eNotice; visit DEP’s BlogLike DEP on Facebook, Follow DEP on Twitter and visit DEP’s YouTube Channel.

(Photo: From DEP’s inspection report.)

Related Articles - Marsh Creek:

-- Sunoco Fails To Meet July 1 Cleanup Deadline For Mariner East Pipeline Spill In The Lake At Marsh Creek State Park, Chester County

-- DEP Approves Sunoco's Mariner East Pipeline Marsh Creek State Park Lake Restoration Plan

-- Sunoco/Mariner East Pipeline To Pay $4 Million In Damages And Restore Lake At Marsh Creek State Park Polluted By A Spill In Chester County

-- Sen. Muth, Rep. Friel Otten: One Year After Mariner East Pipeline Spill 33 Acres Of Marsh Creek State Park Lake Is Still Off Limits, No Remediation Done

-- DEP Orders Sunoco To Reroute 1+ Mile Of Mariner East Pipeline, Investigate Chester County Marsh Creek Lake Spill, Restore Impacted Resources

-- Mariner East Pipeline Drilling Stopped Indefinitely At Site Of Leak Into Marsh Creek State Park Lake, Chester County; Pipeline Company Will Be Held Accountable

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- PA Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Feb. 10 to 16 - 31 More Conventional Abandoned Well NOVs - 103 For Year; Pipeline Land Slips; Water Supply, Stray Gas Complaints  [PaEN] 

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices, Opportunities To Comment - February 17 [PaEN]

-- DEP Posted 109 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In February 17 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]  

Related Articles This Week- Gas:

-- Penn State Study: Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Fails To Meet Beneficial Reuse Recommendations For Use As A Dust Suppressant  [PaEN]

-- DEP: Shell Petrochemical Plant Pays Additional $2,671,044.75 In Civil Penalties For 12-Month Air Quality Violations After May 2023 Consent Order  [PaEN] 

-- Western PA Residents Comment After A Year Of Shell Petrochemical Plant Operations  [PaEN]

-- Citizen Complaint Leads DEP To Breakout Of Mariner East Pipeline Drilling Mud That Contaminated The Lake At Marsh Creek State Park, Chester County; Sunoco Pipeline Starts Cleanup [PaEN] 

-- PUC Adopts Final Regulations Strengthening Operation, Construction Requirements For Intrastate Hazardous Liquids Pipelines  [PaEN]

-- PJM, Electric Grid Operators Recommend Additional Steps To Overcome Vulnerabilities In Natural Gas Infrastructure To Ensure More Reliable Grid Operation  [PaEN]

[Posted: February 22, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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