Temporary halt on Sunoco pipeline affects workers, neighbors

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Work on the Sunoco natural gas pipeline is on hold across the state.

An environmental hearing board judge ordered a two-week halt to horizontal directional drilling, used to tunnel beneath waterways and other obstructions, because construction of the 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline from western Pennsylvania to Philadelphia has caused at least a dozen issues.

The judge’s order halts such drilling at 55 sites. It’s worrying workers and frustrating people like Donald Strock, whose land is ripped up from pipeline work.

“First, they came in and trimmed the back of the tree line,” said Strock, who has lived on his Mechanicsburg farm since he was born.

Unlike others, Strock just shrugged his shoulders when Sunoco knocked on his door.

“It sounded like it was pretty much a done deal,” he said.

The roller-coaster battle over the Mariner East 2 pipeline moved forward amidst lawsuits and protests.

“We can’t grow crops on the ground they’re working on,” Strock said.

But this week, those who live nearby are faced with new worries.

“When we get real heavy rains, even before this started, we could get sediment in our well water,” Strock said.

That’s what Chester County residents say happened to them. Runoff leaked into a creek and tainted wells.

“I’m pretty sure it’s not going to stop,” Strock said with a laugh.

But thousands of workers are holding onto their hats to see if the Department of Environmental Protection takes away necessary permits for Sunoco’s construction.

In the Midstate, union leaders tell us hundreds of operators and engineers are doing maintenance work in the meantime, though no one’s job is affected yet.

“It’s going on longer than what I thought it would,” Strock said.

The setback is a minor win for environmental groups. They haven’t had many of those in their fight against Sunoco.

Gazing out at his ripped up fields, Strock doesn’t see it that way.

“The sooner they get done, get it back-filled, get planted cover crop or whatever they’re going to plant on top, the better off everybody is,” he said.

Sunoco says evidence before the Environmental Hearing Board will show they have done due diligence in meeting the conditions of strict environmental permits.

The hearing is scheduled for Aug. 7.

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