Uwchlan residents discuss Mariner East 2 pipeline, water contamination

Katie Gustafson, right, of Uwchlan Township, shows her water bottle after Sunoco, while digging for the Mariner East 2 Pipeline, fouled more than a dozen private water wells two miles from her home. Neighbor Leah Lennon is pictured on the left.
Katie Gustafson, right, of Uwchlan Township, shows her water bottle after Sunoco, while digging for the Mariner East 2 Pipeline, fouled more than a dozen private water wells two miles from her home. Neighbor Leah Lennon is pictured on the left. BILL RETTEW JR. – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA
Residents hear about the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline at an emergency water contamination meeting at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, north of Exton.
Residents hear about the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline at an emergency water contamination meeting at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, north of Exton. BILL RETTEW JR. – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

UWCHLAN >> Although she uses public water, which has tested as safe, Katie Gustafson of Village Walk in Uwchlan Township had second thoughts about taking a second sip of tap water.

“Is this water going to make me sick?” she asked, while taking a close look at her water bottle, outside Tuesday’s meeting where three dozen residents discussed the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline, which will weave 23 miles through Chester County.

The water contamination emergency meeting was hosted by the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety, the Uwchlan Safety Coalition and the Food and Water Watch, at St. Paul’s Church in Exton.

Sunoco fouled the water supply for more than a dozen private water wells in Uwchlan and West Whiteland townships last week while digging for the pipeline. Some well water users experienced sediment and mud flowing from the taps and others a loss of water pressure.

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The oil company has pledged to hook up any affected residents to public water at no charge, house any impacted residents in hotels and has supplied pallets of bottled water.

Although she lives about two miles from directly impacted well users, Gustafson was particularly alarmed because she was forced to recently visit a hospital emergency room with severe stomach pain.

She said it was the worst pain she’s ever experienced, with only morphine able to fix the affliction.

“I couldn’t move in any direction to make it feel better,” she said. “They told me I was constipated and I know that’s not what it was.”

After listening to the speakers at the meeting discuss Sunoco and the pipeline, the 12-weeks pregnant woman said she hadn’t realized that the pipeline could become a problem.

“It’s super frustrating and scary,” she said. “It’s all about money and corporate greed.”

David Mano lives on Valley View Drive in West Whiteland. His water came up full of silt and sediment on July 5. He said that the entire neighborhood of approximately 22 homes was affected.

He hasn’t yet received results from a Thursday water test by an independent lab. If the results come back fine, he might consider again using well water.

Sunoco dropped off more than 700 bottles of drinking water at the Mano household. The family is using bottled water for both pets and regular household uses.

Mano is now showering at a friend’s house, but did take advantage of the Sunoco-supplied hotel.

“You can’t live without water,” he said. “Try brushing your teeth with a bottle of water. It takes one bottle to rinse your mouth and one bottle to rinse your tooth brush.”

Mano is concerned that sink holes might develop in his neighborhood.

“Is this a huge cavern?” he asked. “When the water drains away from the caverns what will replace this open space?

“Are we going to be in jeopardy a few years from now? Is our house going to fall into a giant cavern and fall into the aquifer?”

Because of the well, Mano doesn’t pay a monthly water bill. He said that neighbors with public water are charged $75 to $150 per month. He has not yet heard from Sunoco about who will take care of the monthly bill.

“I don’t know if (Sunoco) will pay the water bill,” he said. ”All of a sudden we’re going to have a water bill. Why should we have to pay for water?”

Plans call for the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline to carry highly volatile liquids 350 miles from Marcellus Shale deposits in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to the refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.

Benjamin Eckert of Valley View Drive is a neighbor to Mano.

“I wonder what to do next,” Eckert said. “Who knows what’s next? They assure us the water is fine but proposed to pay to connect us to (public water provider) Aqua.

“We had a lifetime of free water and now we’ll be paying about $100 a month for the rest of our lives,” he said.

West Whiteland Township Manager Mimi Gleason said Wednesday afternoon that while testing is not yet complete, both well water and Aqua public water have tested as safe.

She said that Sunoco is following the criteria set up by the Department of Environmental Protection when testing well water for about 25 homes in the township.