Prove your humanity

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has fined Sunoco Pipeline almost $2 million for pollution releases into Raystown Lake during the construction of the Mariner East pipeline. 

Between April and December 2017, Sunoco spilled more than 200,000 gallons of drilling mud into the lake while building a section of the Mariner East pipeline beneath it. 

Sunoco didn’t immediately report the spills, which it found had coated 8-acres of the lakebed. 

“In numerous cases, the company failed to immediately report those releases,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in an email. 

The company reported only a small spill of 25 gallons in December 2017, before sending more comprehensive reports to the DEP in 2018 and 2019. 

The drilling mud is made up largely of bentonite clay, and was used to bore horizontally through the ground beneath the lake bed. The DEP says the company reported a “loss of circulation” of 3 million gallons of the mud, with 208,000 of those gallons “surfacing” at the bottom of the lake. 

A state-ordered inspection of the lake prompted a “No Wake Zone” declaration for boaters there the summer of 2018. 

Raystown Lake, in Huntingdon County, is a reservoir maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is open for boating, fishing, and swimming. It sees over a million visitors a year. 

In addition to the fine, the company will have to do $1.15 million dollars in environmental work on the lake, including work to fight invasive plants and improve fish habitat. 

In 2018 the company was fined nearly $13 million for violations on other sections of the Mariner East. Earlier this month, Energy Transfer, Sunoco’s parent company, received a record $30 million fine for violations related to an explosion on the Revolution pipeline in Beaver County. 

An Energy Transfer spokeswoman said the company was “pleased to come to an agreement with the DEP” over the spills, saying it would “allow us to move forward to complete our construction activities in this area and others.”

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.