WEST WHITELAND >> After hearing assurances from Sunoco and the township that their drinking water had tested safe, about 160 concerned residents at Thursday’s special meeting on water learned that Mariner East 2 Pipeline drilling had stopped until all water issues are resolved, according to Jeff Shields of the Sunoco public relations department.
“We’re suspending drilling operations — we’re not drilling until further notice,” Shields said.
Sunoco has stopped horizontal directional drilling headed north of Shoen Road that damaged the water source 200 feet below grade.
Shields told the standing-room-only crowd that Sunoco would pick up the tab for the next 20 years worth of water fees.
Prior to the meeting, most of the neighbors talked quietly among themselves and passed up on an opportunity to grab a tea or cookie supplied by Sunoco.
Plans call for the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline to weave 23 miles through Chester County. The pipeline will stretch 350 miles from Marcellus Shale deposits in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the former Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, Delaware County.
Affected residents wonder if there would be a little wiggle room for individual negotiations with Sunoco.
“There will be a standard amount paid up front — a lump sum,” Shields said. “It’s in the best interest for everybody to be standard.”
Shield said that Sunoco will learn from water provider Aqua what the average cost for public water runs for a specific area.
If the average monthly bill for water runs $100, affected residents might soon receive a check for $24,000.
Sunoco had already promised some affected residents using well water on Township Line Road, Valley View Drive, Biddle Drive and Shoen Road that the oil company would pitch in and pay for hookups to public water company.
Residents asked if there was a deadline to accept the Sunoco offers.
“I’m not sure there is any rush to make you decide instantly,” Shields said. He didn’t know whether or not the offer would be open indefinitely.
A resident asked if it was possible that the source of public water might be affected.
“We have been assured that they are checking for all pathogens on a daily basis,” according to Supervisor George Turner.
Township Manager Mimi Gleason said that Aqua regularly tests for water quality. She also said that the water volume and turbidity could become affected, with silt showing in the pipes.
Gleason said that Aqua tests water every 10 minutes and if there was a problem, drinking water would automatically be delivered from another source and the well shut down until the water company has a chance to figure it out.
One resident asked Shields whether Sunoco would ask homeowners to indemnify themselves. Shields said that he didn’t know, but would find out as soon as possible.
One former well user was connected to public water on Thursday.
“For government, it’s lighting speed,” Turner said during one the few lighter moments of the meeting.