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Sewickley Creek spill among those cited in $313K Sunoco Pipeline fine

STEPHEN HUBA | Thursday, August 29, 2019 4:05 p.m. TribLive

Energy Transfer subsidiary Sunoco Pipeline LP has agreed to pay $313,000 in fines for environmental violations related to building the Mariner East 2 pipeline, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday.

DEP said construction of the pipeline through Pennsylvania in 2018 resulted in spills of drilling fluid that got into local waterways in 10 counties, including Sewickley Creek in Sewickley Township, Westmoreland County.

The spills, known in the industry as “inadvertent returns,” occurred when construction crews used horizontal directional drilling methods to lay pipe under roads, waterways, wetlands, wildlife habitats and other sensitive areas.

The construction led to unauthorized discharges of bentonite, a nontoxic mix of clay and water that is used as a drill-bit lubricant, DEP said.

“These actions, which resulted in violations of permits and laws that are meant to protect our waterways, are unacceptable,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “DEP will maintain the stringent oversight that we have consistently exercised by monitoring Sunoco and taking all steps necessary to ensure that the company complies with its permits and the law.”

DEP issued a consent assessment of civil penalty to Sunoco for violations of the Clean Streams Law and the Dam Safety and Encroachment Act.

As part of the agreement, DEP assessed a civil penalty of $240,840 for the violations, which Sunoco agreed to pay to the state and the affected county conservation districts.

A separate civil penalty of $78,621 was assessed for violations that occurred in four townships in Cumberland County in 2017.

“We are happy to have resolved this issue with the DEP as we remain focused on safely completing construction of this important pipeline,” said Energy Transfer spokeswoman Amanda Gorgueiro.

The 350-mile pipeline came into service in December and delivers natural gas liquids to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in Delaware County.

In Westmoreland County, the pipeline traverses Sewickley, Hempfield, Penn, Salem, Loyalhanna and Derry townships.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, or via Twitter .

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