Sept. 27–MUHLENBERG TOWNSHIP, Pa. — David Anspach has become adept at navigating through environmental reports, water quality tests and pipeline construction regulations since becoming ill last year from contaminated water at his Caernarvon Township home, an illness he blames on the horizontal directional drilling project near his property.
Now his hope is that state lawmakers take the time to better educate themselves on the problems surrounding current and future natural gas pipeline projects in the state and their impact on residents and the environment.
A small but vocal group turned out Wednesday afternoon at Sen. Judy Schwank’s office in Muhlenberg Township, calling on the Ruscombmanor Township Democrat to better heed constituents’ concerns when she’s legislating in Harrisburg.
Anspach is one of the most vocal local voices pointing out problems with the construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, saying its construction tainted his well with dangerous levels of E. coli bacteria in his water. On Wednesday he held a sign that said, “Legislators, step up and protect our land and water rights.”
Sunoco Pipeline LP, the company building the pipeline, and the state Department of Environmental Protection deny Anspach’s claims. Yet the DEP has required Sunoco to provide drinkable water to Anspach’s home since April, trucking in 2,500 gallons each Friday from a well in Williamsport to fill a portable tank at his home.
“I’ve been called a naysayer; I’ve been called lots of things because I’m trying to advocate for myself and for my county and for local residents,” Anspach said. “I have a steadfast belief in the reasons for my contamination, and I have the evidence to back it up.”
Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, the group that organized the rally, said the local community has not received adequate safety information during the design and building process of Mariner East 2 in Berks County. She pointed to two DEP violation notices filed last week against Sunoco stemming from the construction project in the county, including one instance in which 30,000 gallons of drilling fluids were discharged into a wetlands area in Caernarvon Township.
Feridun said lawmakers who represent Berks County have been quiet on environmental impacts during the building of the pipeline. She also said Anspach’s story has been the most visible in the county, but she regularly receives messages from other residents who have attempted to go to DEP for help and have gotten nowhere.
“There are other people in Berks County right now with brown water,” Feridun said. “So we’re here today because our legislators have been nowhere on this.”
In the middle of the hourlong rally, a representative from Schwank’s office spoke with Feridun, setting up a meeting with her for sometime next week to talk about her concerns.
Anspach said pipeline safety should be a nonpartisan issue. He pointed to a lack of true oversight in the state, which doesn’t have a dedicated pipeline safety organization. The pipeline operation is under the control of the Public Utility Commission, yet DEP is the environmental arm, leaving confusion as to who has responsibility for safety during construction.
“This is an issue that will eventually affect us all,” Anspach said. “And it is in my backyard now, but I’m trying to stop it from being in someone else’s backyard tomorrow.”
Contact Michael Yoder: 610-371-5033 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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