Ah yes…once again….the schist and karst of it all. Or…. the ongoing saga of Energy Transfer just sucks.
So nothing like everyone finding out from a media report that et voilà there is a new sinkhole, right?
by Susan Phillips July 11, 2023
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is investigating a newly formed “earth feature” along the Mariner East natural gas liquids pipeline in Chester County.More often referred to as land subsidence or a sinkhole, it occurred in the area of Lisa Drive, West Whiteland Township, where multiple sinkholes first appeared during construction of the pipeline in March 2018.
At that time, the PUC ordered a temporary shut down of a parallel natural gas pipeline, citing a “catastrophic” effect if it led to a leak. At least five homes on Lisa Drive were later sold to the Texas-based pipeline builder and operator Energy Transfer after its work damaged the aquifer and left gaping holes in residents’ backyards.Sinkholes caused by construction continued to appear in Chester County, including near the Chester Valley Trail and the Exton Library. The area sits on limestone, a porous rock that was prone to sinkhole development even before construction of the Mariner East.
In this most recent incident, Energy Transfer notified the Department of Environmental Protection that on July 6, a new sinkhole, 18 inches in diameter and 54 inches deep, opened up near its natural gas liquids lines along the Lisa Drive right-of-way. The company reported it had excavated and backfilled the sinkhole, according to a DEP spokesperson.
In an emailed statement to WHYY, the PUC said its “independent Bureau of Investigation – which includes the Pipeline Safety Division – was notified of, and responded to, an earth feature on the Lisa Drive right-of-way in West Whiteland Township, Chester County. I&E will continue their investigation, as appropriate.”
Ginny Kerslake, a Chester County resident and organizer with Food and Water Watch, visited the site after hearing from a nearby resident. On Tuesday, she said she saw fresh straw on top of what looked to be the site of the newly remediated sinkhole.
Energy Transfer did not respond to a request for comment by Wednesday evening.
In December 2022, the company filed a brief in a case before the Public Utility Commission where Chester and Delaware county residents sought a complete shutdown of the pipeline system for safety reasons. In the brief, one of the company’s experts, Dr. Timothy Bechtel, vouched for the subsequent remediation of the Lisa Drive sinkholes. He referred to the area as “the most intensely geophysically investigated real estate of which I am aware…the most geophysically studied parcel on the planet.” Alex Bomstein, an attorney with the Clean Air Council, a plaintiff in the case, was surprised when informed of the new sinkhole.“This was supposed to be put to rest,” Bomstein said. “So why is this extremely analyzed piece of earth shifting once again beneath our feet?”
Blows your mind, doesn’t it?
But wait there is more….West Whiteland Supervisors didn’t know about this…West Whiteland staff seemingly did not know other that Energy Transfer reported a small animal hole? Do I have that correct? That the State Impact/WHYY reporter got her information from the DEP about the specifics of the hole? Said hole was like Where’s Waldo in size retelling yesterday for a while, correct? Why all the confusion Energy Transfer? It is the company doesn’t know how big it’s holes are or they don’t want to really get it out there accurately?
And the whole notification thing bothers me. The West Whiteland Manager did not know right away. The MANAGER. Does Energy Transfer find that acceptable? Did ANYONE at West Whiteland or having to do with Emergency Operations know? You know like former Supervisor Bud Turner? After all he IS the Assistant Fire Marshall and Emergency Management Coordinator, correct? And is it fair to say in the past he has had a somewhat cozy relationship with pipeline folks? Yeah Bud people are allowed to ask what you know and when you knew it…people’s lives could depend upon it, right?
Why were West Whiteland officials NOT shown the sinkhole by Energy Transfer until after it was filled? Seems like maybe Energy Transfer should have had Chair of Supervisors and Manager out to the site?
Ok have you viewed the public comment by Ginny Kerslake above? Other observations include Interesting to note that Supervisor Raj Kumbhardare was fairly rude. Looking at his phone, visibly annoyed and replied snottily to Ginny which was uncalled for. He commented that this had been discussed in email today, so it was like he was over it. Commissioner Saint Theresa the Lame Duck just acts like an angry cat and from zoom it is like she won’t even look at residents. Which of course is equal parts rude and dismissive, but hey her head is in the game of free yard sales these days, right?
So in the whole sinkhole of it all over there where the new one is if I have it straight the north side is Limestone and south side is schist. And is this something called the Martic fault (line?) I guess it is? (If I have that backwards or upside down, I am guessing someone will tell me? And is this latest hole rather near the Mariner East II 20″ pipeline? I mean what possibly could go wrong, right?
And can someone tell me WHY Energy Transfer remediates sinkholes with CONCRETE? I thought the way to properly remediate a sinkhole is excavation and then layers of soil and stone compacted? So guessing they can’t do that because pipeline might go boom so what happens if concrete fix like sinks onto pipeline if another hole were to emerge? Concrete is heavy, right? I know, I know I am but a mere mortal and a female…
Funny other thing? Yesterday, the Chester County Commissioners had as a topic approving a rather expensive safety plan for pipelines that many of us thought was in place like a while ago but isn’t?
Ok let’s talk about this company and this proposal. First view the power point presentation seemingly created by a middle schooler today:
I have to ask WHY WASN’T the ACTUAL COMPANY THERE? Did someone not want them to have to answer questions? Very bothersome. Much like the PowerPoint for toddlers by middle schoolers which basically said nothing except made you wonder how the plan this company with no experience has put forward was actually accepted? Forget about how do they think anyone is going to move fast enough if something goes BOOM because we will probably go BOOM too? What is that about running uphill in the wind or is it against the wind in a blindfold or something? Comparing it to not using cell phone at gas pump? (This gets a big WhatjatalkinboutWillis.)
Soooo related to this was when Ginny Kerslake wanted info and was denied (hey public record baby and Facebook public on the redacted blackout.)
But Ginny persisted and filed an appeal….and WON (again, public record):
Then there is the whole other thing with the presentation of who is notified and when and they had municipalities adjoining the big Energy Transfer etc invaded municipalities but are those municipalities included in the notification of it all? I mean hello, hello BLAST ZONE? Not chopped liver, BLAST ZONE.
Also to be considered now given the games of notification with this latest it’s not a sinkhole it’s a lil’ animal hole…no ooopsies it is a sinkhole but you can’t see it we covered it up can we even depend upon Energy Transfer to notify properly or in a timely fashion?
Oh here public comment from the County Commissioners meeting today:
I will note that wannabe county commissioners, i.e. candidates were also at the county commissioners meeting in the audience. They did not speak. They were not value added. So maybe just maybe ALL candidates should be asked CLEARLY where they stand on pipelines and for the new kids, would they have allowed the pipelines into Chester County like this in the FIRST PLACE? I mean we know what happened with the ones already in office running again, but hey little nouveau candidates we’re not carrying YOUR water, and if you don’t carry ours, it’s an election issue. If you talk out of the both sides of your mouth and get elected, prepare to be haunted.
No one is particularly naïve to political BS and pipelines any longer since most residents, especially affected residents have a masters in it: politicians all say what you want to hear to get elected, then they disappear. Both parties, all the way to Washington DC and Harrisburg. My opinion has kind of always been politicians and pipelines have an odd symbiotic relationship. The politicians who don’t have a comfy cozy pipeline relationship are essentially flogged daily or whenever convenient. In Chester County and elsewhere in PA, the politicians who have the fortitude and common sense to realize the risks outweigh the rewards when it comes to these pipelines are the exceptions rather than the rule. We need to change that, and I think we can.
Pipelines as an issue should be non-partisan in our communities. These pipeline companies don’t care whose lives and properties and areas they ruin.
And I will finish with the correspondence from Energy Transfer to West Whiteland’s very nice manager yesterday that was referred to in the supervisors meeting last evening:
Here is what was said in case it is hard to read:
Subject: More information on the Lisa Drive Earth Feature
Last week a third party contractor was inspecting our right of way at Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township, Chester County and discovered an earth feature behind a property owned by Sunoco Pipeline L.P. There were no utilities or pipelines exposed and there is no concern to public safety.
A professional geologist (PG) visited the site the same day and recommended that our operations team over excavate the area and then fill with flowable fill. This work was completed the following morning when flowable fill was available. Moving forward we will continue to monitor the area as we have been. In relation to the earth feature – it was approximately 18” in diameter and 54” deep. The PG believes that it could have been caused by heavy rains that occurred earlier last week. Approximate distance from pipelines –
Joseph P. Massaro
- 5 feet adjacent and 50 feet above the 16-inch ME2X pipeline (carrying ethane) – This pipeline was installed via horizontal directional drill.
- 8 feet away from the 20-inch ME2 pipeline (carrying propane and butane)
- 27 feet from the 8-inch former ME1 pipeline (currently in refined products service)
- 25 feet from the 12-inch pipeline (Currently laid down with nitrogen)
Lead Specialist – Public Affairs
Never a dull moment in Pipelineville. I guess “earth feature” is pipeline speak for “sinkhole”? And pay close attention because pipeline companies are jonesing for hydrogen hubs too.