Company Behind Dakota Access Pipeline Causes Water Contamination in Pennsylvania

Ralph Blume’s water in Cumberland County, PA. Photo credit: Deirdre Lally

The fears of thousands of Water Protectors who tried to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline have come true. Not on the indigenous lands they fought to protect in the great plains of North Dakota, but in the heart of Pennsylvania, where Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is building their next pipeline, the Mariner East 2.

Currently under construction, the Mariner East 2 pipeline will transport fracked gas liquids 350+ miles across the length of Pennsylvania to an export facility on the East Coast in Marcus Hook, PA. ETP has already caused multiple cases of water contamination across the state, confirming the objections of citizens who oppose the pipeline

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) documents show 74 drilling mud spills across the pipeline construction route and State Impact reports that in July 15 families in Chester County had their drinking water contaminated when horizontal drilling impacted an aquifer.

And most recently in Cumberland County, Ralph Blume’s family had the water on their rural farm contaminated when ETP stripped the topsoil and vegetation, causing toxic runoff to drain into their hand-drilled water well.

“It itches and burns if you shower in it,” Blume said. “It looks like sludge. We won’t drink it.” He also wonders if the 7 times he’s been hospitalized this summer for kidney stones has anything to do with the contaminated water.

And it’s not just the family’s water that’s been ruined. Their rural livelihoods and peace of mind have also been destroyed.

“It was my yard they went through,” he says as he tells me about trees the company cut down. Tree his wife’s father planted at least 60 years ago that can never be replaced in his lifetime.

Despite planning to export their product, Sunoco (now owned by ETP) was granted eminent domain to seize the Blume’s land for their pipeline. When the company came to clear-cut the land, the local police were there to protect the company, not the citizens.

It’s a similar story to what happened to the Gerhart family, who are fighting the same pipeline in Huntingdon, PA. Both the Blumes and Gerharts argue that it’s illegal for the company to use eminent domain since the public does not benefit from the pipeline.

So far they’ve lost in the local courts, but are waiting for the State Supreme Court to hear their cases.

Blume isn’t too optimistic since the state has sided with the company instead of the people every step of the way. He’s made reports to the DEP and the Governor about the water contamination but said the regulatory agencies aren’t doing anything about it.

“We just want to be left alone,” Blume says. “But we’re going to keep fighting.”

More on the Mariner East 2 Pipeline: Camp White Pine: The Pipeline Fight Among Pennsylvania’s Woods