Sunoco Spills Drilling Fluid While Drilling Under Chester Creek for its Proposed Mariner East Highly
For Immediate Release
Middletown Coalition for Community Safety (MCCS)
Media contact: email@example.com – (484 441 -3308)
BROOKHAVEN BOROUGH, PA – May 12, 2017. At about 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, MCCS was alerted to the following message on the Brookhaven Borough web site:
“According to our Borough Engineer's office, Sunoco Logistics is working in the front yard of 5005 and 5007 Chester Creek Rd. The work is associate with the Mariner East pipeline but is not the actual pipeline location. They are directionally drilling the pipeline under Chester Creek. The operation includes the pumping of bentonite ( a slurry made of clay and water ) to fill any voids created by the drilling. The slurry apparently followed a fracture in the rock under the area and started to bubble out in the area of 5005 and 5007. The work is to clean up and remove the slurry. This is a non toxic substance as it is only clay and water. The duration of the work is unknown because they do not know the full extent of the errant slurry. They have been advised to come in and make a full report with the Borough office.”
Large walls of sandbags placed in center of Chester Creek. Image by area resident.
In the intervening days, Brookhaven has declined to answer questions about the spill or its cleanup,
instead referring questions to representatives of Sunoco’s public relations firm The Bravo Group
(tagline: “Win Tough Fights —When you're doing everything right but you're still not winning.”)
Seeking information about the impact to Chester Creek and area drinking water supplies, local residents have been on the scene monitoring and documenting the spill. “Horizontal drilling fluid often contains substances beyond water and bentonite” said Eve Miari of the Middletown Coalition. “We call on Sunoco and Brookhaven Borough to quickly and fully disclose the contents of the
leaked fluid, and the quantity of material spilled into this waterway of the Commonwealth.”
Leaks of drilling fluid are commonplace in Sunoco operations. MCCS commissioned a waterway and
wetland impact study which forecast the likelihood of such events. Sunoco has a recent history of such spills for which it has paid penalties to the Commonwealth. In April 2017, Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco’s corporate parent, spilled over 2 million gallons of drilling fluid into Ohio wetlands. “It’s a tragedy in that we would anticipate this wetland won’t recover to its original condition for decades,” Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee told ThinkProgress.
Even Sunoco’s own applications to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) analyzed the risk to public and private water supplies. (PADEP posted and then removed from its web site the documents from which the following information is extracted. MCCS has provided these original documents at the link listed at the end of this press release).
5.2 RISKS TO WATER SUPPLIES
5.2.1 PRIVATE GROUNDWATER WELLS
Potential HDD [horizontal directional drilling] Impacts HDD for pipelines usually occur at depths less than 100 feet, which could include the crossing of superficial/shallow aquifers. The primary potential impact to groundwater is the migration of drilling fluid away from the HDD drill path. Specifically, drilling fluid expended downhole will flow in the path of least resistance. While the path of least resistance is typically the bore hole itself, it may instead be an existing fracture, fissure, or formation opening in the soil or rock substrate. When this happens, circulation can be lost or reduced and drilling fluid could enter the groundwater table that could be used by private groundwater wells.
Public surface water supplies:
5.2.3 PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY SURFACE WATER INTAKES
Potential Hazardous Material Spill and Encounter Impacts
Hazardous material spills and encounters with unanticipated contaminated soil has a potential to impact surface waters that may be upstream and in or along a surface water with a public water supply intake. Work with diesel run equipment is often carried out adjacent to, and within wetlands, waters, and floodways. A spill could result in a direct and immediate impact.
Potential HDD Impacts
HDD fluid follows the path of least resistance and may leave the bore hole through a variety of geologic anomalies. The environment may be impacted if the fluid inadvertently returns to the surface at a location on a waterway’s banks or within a waterway or wetland. If the fluid cannot be adequately contained, it can mix with surface water, dramatically increasing turbidity, and flow downstream. If this turbid flow reaches a surface water intake, then the public water supply could be adversely affected.
All information developed or obtained by MCCS to document this spill is publicly available at
Additional documentation and images will be added as they become available.
Press Release: 2017-05-12-Press-Release-MCCS-Brookhaven-drilling-fluid-spill.pdf
The Middletown Coalition for Community Safety is a nonpartisan, fact-based, grassroots organization of concerned Pennsylvanians. Despite its name, the Coalition stretches across our Commonwealth. Our mission is to unite people through education and to encourage our elected officials to make informed policy decisions for the safety and well-being of our communities.