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They already have. Every year, first responders from the West Whiteland Fire Company, along with other local fire companies, receive training on how to respond to incidents involving natural gas, natural gas liquids and many other types of hazards. Chester County’s Hazardous Materials Response Team receives even more extensive training on responding to hazmat incidents. They are trained and prepared to respond to a pipeline emergency and will direct people where to go (or stay) to be safe.
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Because West Whiteland Township did not have any regulatory authority over the repurposing of Mariner East 1 and has not had any regulatory authority over Sunoco’s proposed construction of Mariner East 2. West Whiteland Township does not have enforcement or regulatory authority over the location of underground transmission pipelines, or whether a pipeline is constructed by horizontal directional drilling or open trench construction, or the type of product that will flow through the new pipelines or any of the existing pipelines. To the extent there are regulations for underground transmission pipeline siting, methods of construction or use, they are enforced by federal and state agencies.
The Board of Supervisors has supported and advocated for pipeline safety. The Board funded a report to obtain recommendations for amendments to pipeline safety regulations, which was incorporated into comments by the Chester County Association of Township Officials submitted to the PA PUC. The Board endorsed those comments in their own letter to the PUC as part of a rulemaking process. In addition, the Board has intervened in three complaints before the PUC having to do with Sunoco's Mariner East pipelines.
It depends on the incident. There is no one size fits all response to a pipeline accident, or any other kind of accident or emergency. In some cases, emergency responders will want people to stay in place because they already are safe. In others, they will want people within a certain vicinity of the incident to evacuate. The extent and direction of an evacuation would depend on the nature of the accident, weather conditions at that time and any other factors affecting conditions on the ground.
If there were a major pipeline emergency, many fire, ambulance and police departments would respond. There would be numerous first responders on the scene working to get people to safety. As a result, people near the emergency would find out quickly what they should do.
This scenario is all but impossible. There has not yet been an actual incident (as opposed to an online legend) of a cell phone accidentally igniting anything anywhere. Apparently the warnings about cell phones as an ignition source are a carryover from decades-old warnings about the potential for sparks from old landline phones. There were a few instances of explosions many years ago that supposedly were triggered by cellphones; stories about cell phones causing those explosions went viral but the fact that the stories were debunked did not. Take a look at new gas pumps now – they no longer have a warning against using cell phones near them.
Of course, if you smell or hear gas outside that you think may come from a leak, for your own safety walk away before doing anything else, including calling 911.
The Mariner East 2 pipeline will be at least 4 feet underground. The portions of the pipeline installed by horizontal directional drilling will be anywhere from 20 to 220 feet underground. If there is a leak deep underground, you will not see it. The first likely sign will be a decrease in pressure detected by the pipeline system, which would trigger shut off. Required inspections also can detect issues that may arise inside the pipe or with the protective coating.
For leaks closer to the surface, here is guidance:
Companies transporting natural gas to end users, such as PECO, often add odorant to add in detection. Sunoco cannot add odorant to the NGLs in the Mariner East system because of the potential end uses of the products, such as textiles and plastics.