Pennsylvania: residents say a corrupt pipeline project is making them sick
“Pennsylvania has a corruption problem. Through a massive lobbying, campaign finance and public relations effort, the fossil fuel industry has successfully manipulated our legislature, our local governments and regulatory agencies.” -State Congresswoman Danielle Friel
The Guardian-USA News
Every evening, Erica and Jon Tarr load up their car with towels, toiletries and dirty dishes, before driving their two-year-old daughter to a relative’s home to bathe, wash up and eat a meal cooked in clean water.
The Tarrs, who moved into their spacious detached home in semi-rural Pennsylvania last April, have relied upon bottled water and family generosity since June, when their crystalline tap water first turned murky.
Since then, they’ve spent more than $32,000 on new equipment, lab tests, bottled water, repairing pipes and parts damaged by the turbid water. It still isn’t safe, and they don’t know why.
Erica Tarr and her husband Jon Tarr play with their daughter, Evie, at their home in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. Photograph: Hannah Yoon/The Guardian
“It’s sad and frustrating, I can’t bathe my daughter, wash my hands or do a load of laundry, it’s like living in constant crisis. We’re not the only ones in this situation, but we feel so alone,” said Erica Tarr, 31, a paediatric nurse. (Photo furnished by the Tarr family.)
The clay-colored water appeared around the time of a drilling mud spill at a nearby construction site for the Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipeline – a beleaguered multi-billion dollar project transporting volatile natural gas liquids from the shale fields of eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania to an export facility in Delaware county, ready to ship to Europe to manufacture plastics.
The ME2 horizontal directional drilling (HDD) project – which is subject to multiple criminal and regulatory investigations – has contaminated surface and groundwater sources in hundreds of mud spills, and created sinkholes in parks, roads and backyards since construction began in early 2017. HDD drilling is particularly susceptible to spills known as inadvertent returns, in which lubricating mud erupts through weak spots in the rock.
But as the Tarrs’ tap water became increasingly turbid and the pressure plummeted, the pipeline company Sunoco Logistics, a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer LP, insisted the project was not to blame.
The Tarr family, like 13 million or more American households, rely on a private well for drinking water which they – not regulators – are responsible for monitoring and keeping safe. So, in October they installed a sophisticated filter system and drilled a new well in their picturesque wooded backyard, a couple of hundred meters from the worksite.
The water seemed fine for a few days. But then it started smelling strongly of nail polish and burned Erica’s mouth when she brushed her teeth.
Lab results detected toluene and MTBE – volatile organic compounds found in fuel.
According to local records, in 1992 an old Sunoco fuel pipeline leaked tens of thousands of gallons of hazardous liquids close to the Tarr’s new well…..
(TLB) edited some written content and pictorial content
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