Otten Supports Uwchlan Township supervisor’s request to Sunoco

EXTON, Oct. 10 – State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, today issued a statement of support for a letter from Uwchlan Township Supervisor Mayme Baumann to Sunoco Pipeline L.P. regarding more unforeseen drilling in the community.

Baumann’s letter took issue with Sunoco’s planned addition of new horizontal directional drilling sites along Devon Drive in Uwchlan Township, noting that Sunoco previously informed the township that the drilling rig for this segment of pipeline would be placed outside of Uwchlan Township.

Baumann requested that Sunoco adhere to its original plan, under which Uwchlan Township would serve only as an exit point for drilling. Baumann cited concerns that the new proposal will have significantly more impact on the residents of Uwchlan Township, including substantially more noise and vibration.

In a letter dated Sept. 27, 2019, Energy Transfer notified some residents of Uwchlan Township’s Marchwood neighborhood that “a certain construction activity known as Horizontal Directional Drilling (‘HDD’) for Mariner East 2…will recommence within thirty days from the date of this letter.” The Energy Transfer letter makes no mention of the change in entry or exit points, the addition of new rigs, or the duration of the drilling, which Sunoco advised township officials may last between 75 and 224 days.

“This is the same letter our family and others have received when Sunoco has commenced work numerous other times at numerous other locations,” Otten said. “Nowhere does this letter mention a new plan to add a drill rig that will operate for 75 to 200 business days—through the holidays—just feet from people’s back doors. People were told that Sunoco would be in and out in two weeks, and that their yards would not have a drill site. It has been five years for the folks who signed early, and now they learn of this change, not from Sunoco or their land agents, but through our township officials. I strongly support Mayme Baumann’s request that Sunoco stick to its original plan.”

Several Marchwood residents echoed Otten’s and Baumann’s concerns about both the impact of the drilling and Sunoco’s failure to notify property owners of their change in plans.

“Yet again Sunoco changes their plans in our community with no regard for residents,” said Carrie Gross of Crump Road. “Why did they make these changes? Were they in response to safety and environmental concerns, or just because it’s the quickest and cheapest way for them to do business? My neighbors have been traumatized by this company for two and a half years, with no end in sight. Who is holding this egregious operator responsible?”

“It is very worrisome news,” said John McGrath of Carlton Place. “With all the issues we have read about at Lisa Drive, it seems unwise to change a drill site without proper hydrological or impact studies. I work from home, and the construction was already quite loud in the workspace behind my house without a drill site. I can only imagine the noise and vibration to come. Has ETP done any impact study at all for this change? Are we not a high-consequence area? Their need to complete the project should not be put before the safety of residents or the environment.”

Uwchlan Safety Coalition co-founder and Downingtown Area school director Rebecca Britton called the abrupt change in plans rushed and unethical.

“The original Crump and Whitford Road site was clearly communicated to homeowners, who negotiated their settlements knowing that they would be exposed to noise and vibration,” Britton said, referring to the exit site location under the original plan. “This new plan has not been communicated at all to residents impacted by the new drilling site. We have dozens of questions for Sunoco, and we’ve been given no opportunity to get answers. No one has had an opportunity to approve the new plan based either on its impact during construction or its long-term safety.”

On Sept. 25, Sunoco informed township officials that drilling from Devon Drive toward Shoen Road, in West Whiteland Township, would last a minimum of 75 days. The drills would then be turned around to drill for an additional 75 to 224 days, back toward Devon Drive.

“It’s also concerning that Sunoco has not explained why they need to do this,” Britton said. “Has something happened at the other drill site that prevents them from using that site? If so, that should be clearly communicated to our township engineer and to property owners.”

One Marchwood resident, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by Sunoco, called the lack of communication, “another example of complete disregard for and disrespect to our safety, privacy, families and our homes.” The resident added that property owners and taxpayers have the right to know what exactly is happening in their yards.

“Once again, life on Devon Drive has been disrupted by the return of Sunoco,” said Patricia Marron, who has lived on the street for 34 years. “Just yesterday, my grandchildren ages 3 and 4-and-a-half were riding play toys up Devon Drive as a trailer loaded with steel for the pipeline came barreling down the street to a stop. I realized then that I am taking chances by having them play outside along our street as they once did. We have not been able to use our property for the last three years, with no communication from Sunoco on timelines. No monetary compensation can make up for the stress and worry this company has caused Marchwood residents for the last four years.”

Other residents raised concerns about the impact to their air and water quality, their home foundations, their safety and their quality of life during and after construction. A spokesperson for the PA Department of Environmental Protection said Sunoco had satisfied its HDD notification requirements, but for residents and elected officials, the requirement does not go far enough.

“Sunoco is a private company that should be required to honor its contracts with private property owners,” Otten said. “We as legislators and elected officials should not be the ones to deliver Sunoco’s bad news to our neighbors. Sunoco and Energy Transfer are not doing their jobs. They need to step up and be the responsible corporate neighbor they claim to be.”

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Attention editors: A photo of Uwchlan Township residents hearing Sunoco’s request to waive a township noise ordinance can be found here. Photo taken by Hugh Brownstone.