THE NEW NEIGHBOR
Edgmont residents talk about having pipeline literally in their backyards
THORNBURY » With youngsters riding trikes, kids kicking soccer balls and families walking dogs, Andover seems like a typical subdivision.
The orange barriers, “no trespassing” signs and open space disturbance, however, are eroding into its white picket fence normalcy.
Andover is one of a number of developments, businesses and schools throughout the state, including in Delaware and Chester counties, effected by the Sunoco Pipeline L.P. Mariner East 2 project. The intrusion of the installation has become an unwanted part of everyday life.
“Personal property rights, personal safety issues and personal well-being have all been set aside,” said homeowner Jennifer Degnan. “From the governor’s decision all the way down to local municipalities – to give full reign to Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco and their contractors is truly is a sad day for Pennsylvanians.”
Spanning Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, Mariner East 2 is a 350mile pipeline system slated to bring natural gas liquids such as propane, ethane and butane to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. Approximately 11.4 miles would be installed in Delaware County across private and public property in the township, Edgmont, Middletown, Aston and Upper Chichester, ending at the facility.
The private property issue is one of several with which the Andover homeowners’ association has taken exception. The development of 39 single family homes on approximately 42 acres, bounded by routes 352 and 926, includes 40 percent open space as required by municipal code.
The association claims, however, that Sunoco’s easement is part of that open space and the project has reduced the tract below the minimum size. It has questioned whether the work was completed within the limits of the easement or strayed into the communal land.
“The land is our park,” said Eric Friedman. “It has a trail system, provides a buffer and is for the use and enjoyment of Andover residents and their guests.”
The homeowners have also appealed the township zoning, building and electrical permits issued to Sunoco for Mariner East 1 and the highway occupancy permit granted by PennDOT, which has allowed the company to build construction roads accessing the highways. Each issue is under litigation.
The stumps are all that remain of nearly half the buffer between Kathy Ventresca’s deck and the traffic on Middletown Road, Route 352. Nearly 30 of the evergreens planted behind her house when the development was built in 2007 have been removed, taking with them the natural sound barrier and privacy protection.
“This land was an old apple orchard and the builder replaced the trees one-forone,” she said. “I work from home and the buffer was nice when I was on the phone.”
In addition to the newer trees, Mark and Jennifer Berlinger, who live in a 1798 farmhouse, have seen the loss of an ash, black walnut and 150-year-old ginkgo near their property. The massive plantings not only added to the historic nature of their home, which contains a beehive oven and root cellar, but provided a layer of safety and security.
“Many of us bought our houses because of the open space that is part of our community property and the trails where we could walk our dogs and instead for the next two years we have this,” said Jennifer Berlinger. “If we found jobs elsewhere and decided to move, who would want to come to this construction zone?”
Jennifer and Stephen Degnan’s house abuts the open space on two sides, both of which have been commandeered as part of the pipeline route. The buffer between their residence and Duffer’s Tavern has been removed for the above ground valve station and permanent road approximately 30 feet from their home.
“We can look in Duffer’s window and see what is on TV and their customers can look inside our house and see what we are watching,” said Jennifer Degnan. “The noise is much louder, both from traffic and from Duffer’s customers, and we have headlights from the parking lot coming in our windows.”
The Degnans’ yard has always been a magnet for neighborhood kids and she felt comfortable telling them to “go outside and play” without constant supervision. She now feels the need, however, to watch from the deck.
“I don’t know who these people are,” she added. “Our school district has a built-in security system that requires people coming in the building to show proper identification, but there’s nothing like that here.”
The couple also pointed to the valve site posted with a sign prohibiting actions such as smoking, cell phone use and vehicle idling with 25 feet. Workers in hard hats, however, can at times be seen engaged in the banned activities closer than the designated distance.
The line of demarcation between the properties and the work site, once sprayed with fluorescent orange
“Many of us bought our houses because of the open space that is part of our community property and the trails where we could walk our dogs, and instead for the next two years we have this. If we found jobs elsewhere and decided to move, who would want to come to this construction zone?”
— Jennifer Berlinger
paint, was replaced recently with similarly-colored fencing and “Keep Out-Authorized Personnel Only” signs. The original lack of a physical barrier resulted in contractors calling the Pennsylvania State Police multiple times when it appeared homeowners were “trespassing” on their own open space, said Friedman.
“We were walking on land that we have walked on as long as we have lived here. No one tried to talk or interfere with the contractors, but if we stepped over the line, they called,” he added. “The association has appreciated the Pennsylvania State Police and the courtesies and professionalism they have displayed.”
Members also noted what they perceived as a lack of support from the township. Like most homeowners, buying a house is typically the largest purchase they will ever make and the 4,000-square-foot houses, with asking prices close to $1 million, represent a significant investment in their lives and the more than $12,000 in annual property taxes provides substantial revenue to the municipality.
“This makes you feel abandoned by your supervisors,” said Mark Berlinger. “They could have played a larger role in stopping Sunoco, but they didn’t.”
While the noise and lights are a short-term inconvenience, the possibility of a leak of pressurized gas represents a looming threat. Construction has also exposed high levels of lead, arsenic and dieldrin, compounds covered by grass and impervious surfaces which have been disturbed.
“We bought in 2015 and anticipate raising our kids and living here for the next 30-40 years,” said Mike Walsh. “This is a failure from the top down.”
Workers clear the way for the Mariner East 2 pipeline beside homes in the Andover development off Route 352 in Edgmont Township.
The view from Jennifer and Stephen Degnan’s deck once included numerous trees separating the house from Duffer’s Tavern.
Here’s the view now with Duffer’s in full view where the trees once stood.
A orange construction fence and “Keep Out – Authorized Personnel Only” sign separates Andover residents from their open space.
This tree is one of many removed between homes and Route 352.
The view from a rear yard along Route 352 shows the proximity to the highway.