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WEST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) — Sunoco is blaming recent heavy rains for a sinkhole that opened up, exposing a pipeline in West Whiteland Township. The 5-by-10-foot hole was discovered on the 400 block of Lisa Drive.
Ever since the sinkhole opened up late Sunday afternoon, teams of workers have been monitoring the natural gas transmission line exposed after the ground gave way.
On Monday, Energy Transfer LP, the company responsible for the line, announced that the Mariner East 1 pipeline was shut down as a precautionary measure, meaning that it will be purged of product to ensure it remains stable while testing is performed.
The pipeline is secure and the area is stable, they announced.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s (PUC’s) Independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) released this statement on the investigation:
“On January 20, 2019, at approximately 4:40 p.m., the PUC’s Pipeline Safety Division was notified by Sunoco Pipeline LP, a/k/a Energy Transfer Partners (SPLP), that a new subsidence feature had formed near Lisa Drive, in Chester County, exposing the ME1 pipeline. I&E immediately dispatched a safety engineer to the site. I&E’s geophysical consultant, ARM, was also asked to send a representative to the site. To ensure public safety, at approximately 6:30 pm on January 20, 2019, I&E proposed to SPLP that this section of the ME1 pipeline be shut down pending further investigation. At approximately 7:30 p.m. on January 20, 2019, SPLP initiated the stoppage of product transportation through this section of ME1. The shutdown was completed at approximately 12:06 a.m. on January 21, 2019. As a result of this shutdown, there is no product flowing through an approximately 7-mile long section of pipeline, between valves located at Boot and Exton, both in Chester County.”
“That really sparked some concern in the local community after months and months of problems dealing with Sunoco and the problems with the pipelines and sinkholes erupting before,” West Whiteland resident Jason Mattia said. “It’s concerning to see another one come up, months after the problem was fixed.”
Mariner East 1 is just a few yards away from Mariner 2, a natural gas line that has spawned years of controversy — even the District Attorney’s Office launched an investigation.
Opponents of the project were quick to again raise a red flag with their concerns.
“If it were to fail and gasses would leak, and apparently in a community like this with cars and cellphones, for the gases to be ignited and there would be an explosion,” said Ginny Kerslake of Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety.
Pennsylvania Democratic state Sen. Andy Dinniman visited the site and speaking with reporters, he called on state regulators to once again shut down the line.
“It’s not the right place to build a pipeline,” he said. “Right where it is, second a major sinkhole has developed and a pipe has been exposed.”
Neighbors say a lack of information has rattled nerves in the community. Neither Sunoco or Energy Transfer LP has answered the community’s questions.