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DEP orders Sunoco to cover exposed pipelines

Harrisburg — The Department of Environmental Protection today ordered Sunoco Pipeline, LP to cover exposed pipelines at more than three dozen locations across the state.

Following the discovery of an exposed pipeline in June, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission requested that Sunoco identify any additional exposed pipelines and notify both DEP and PUC.

In total, portions of Sunoco’s pipeline network located throughout the commonwealth are exposed at 43 locations. The exposed pipeline at 42 of those locations is transporting refined petroleum products. The remaining exposed pipeline is transporting natural gas liquids. The exposed pipelines are not located at ongoing construction areas. For security purposes, the Public Utility Confidential Security Information Disclosure Protection Act prohibits state agencies from releasing the locations of the exposed pipelines.

Of the 43 locations, 10 do not require a permit from DEP to address the exposed pipelines due to their location in upland areas. Remediation action is in progress at 10 sites and about to commence at four additional sites. Sunoco has submitted permit applications that are under DEP review for 10 sites and plans to submit applications at nine additional sites.

“Pipelines can become exposed over time due to erosion in stream channels or due to their position in the ground, as many were constructed before there were standards on how deep they should be buried. These identified pipelines are now exposed to weather, flooding, and vandalism, which can result in a failure of the pipeline and subsequent impacts to our waterways, so it’s critical that Sunoco addresses them immediately,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “DEP is committed to enforcing our regulations and laws to protect our environment.”

Under DEP’s Chapter 105 regulations pertaining to Dam Safety and Waterway Management, “Pipelines under stream beds shall be located such that there will be a minimum of 3 feet of cover between the top of the pipe or encasement and the lowest point in the stream bed; provided, that if the pipeline is in rock, it shall have the depth of granular soil plus six inches for cover, but never less than one foot of total cover.”

According to the order, Sunoco has 30 days to apply for all needed permits on remaining sites and once appropriate permits and approvals are obtained, will have 60 days to bury all exposed pipelines to the appropriate amount of cover and then fully stabilize and restore the site.

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