Sunoco has signed off on a $990,000 option to stop a federal lawsuit stemming from its 2012 gas spill in Wellington.
The consent decree will require the pipeline company, under the Clean Water Act, to pay $507.69 for each of the 1,950 barrels of gas that leaked from a 30-inch breach in its pipe under the Wellington Township garage.
The cash must be turned over within 30 days of the decree being published in the Federal Register, or Sunoco will have to pay $1,500 per day in penalties.
The money will go into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
The agreement bears the signatures of Environmental Enforcement Section deputy chief Karen Dworkin and trial attorney Lisa Jones, both of the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as reps from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Sunoco Pipeline CEO David Chalson.
It allows Sunoco to avoid any admission of liability.
The decree says Sunoco has taken steps to reduce the potential for other leaks by removing and replacing sections of the pipeline, hydrostatic pressure testing the pipeline, and improving its internal monitoring and response programs.
We talked to some of the residents who were evacuated from their homes for a week after the January 2012 spill.
In all, 70 people had to leave because of health and ignition concerns.
Among them was Pat Cypher: “We built a new home on our property and everything was all right,” she said. “We’ve seen no effects from it. We’ve seen no effects with our water or land. We were the only ones that had to leave the neighborhood. The house on either side of us didn’t have to evacuate. They measured and I guess the odor of the gas just affected our house differently.”
Cypher recalled how she stayed with her son down the road while clean-up crews worked to contain the gas.
Sunoco laid new stone in driveways and planted new grass from Rt. 58 to Hawley Street to repair damage from trucks. “Sunoco gave us money for the extra noise,” she said. “Across from our house, it was lit up like a big football field all night long for weeks and weeks until they got it fixed. A guard would sit in a truck all night long after the workers left until they came back the next morning. One morning my husband counted 27 dump trucks coming in to get all the contaminated fill. I think Sunoco did a tremendous job.”
Jan McClaflin, who has lived at Brookside Mobile Home Park the past 16 years, was in Texas during the evacuation.
“They did a really good job of keeping us informed. I came back the Saturday they let people back in and I couldn’t smell much of anything,” she said. “I heard it was very, very bad at first. My nephew was staying here when I was away with my animals for me. The animals have shown no effects that could’ve come from it. Sunoco reimbursed us for what was called for and did a good job. I felt well-compensated.”
Doris Gray is a 13-year Brookside resident.
She also said Sunoco took care of her concerns, paying a lump sum up front so she and her husband, Larry, could go to a hotel.
“We stayed with my daughter a couple of days and eventually went to the Oberlin Inn,” she said. “Our land and drinking water has been fine and I’ve never heard of any drops in property value. Land value was a concern in the beginning but we’ve been told there’s no concern.”
Larry Gray could smell gas, said Doris, and when she went outside, “it almost took my breath away. It was in the ditch behind our units. A friend of mine didn’t even leave until the next day after the evacuation. She’s deaf and didn’t hear them knocking on the door at nighttime. She had just taken her hearing aid out and gone to bed.”
Again, she spoke highly of the lengths to which the gas company went to make amends.
They included making arrangements for the Grays’ pet bird at the Oberlin Inn, helping the family with luggage, and hiring plows to clear snow from driveways.
“It was very professional. Some people have talked of pursuing a lawsuit but I don’t know why,” Doris said.
Jason Hawk and Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @EditorHawk and @DelozierNews on Twitter.