When odd-looking clay appeared at Marsh Creek Lake last week, anti-fossil-fuel progressives immediately pointed fingers at Energy Transfer/Sunoco, the company behind the Mariner 2 pipeline.

Photos of the whitish substance were posted by Green Party candidate for governor Christina “PK” Digiulio, a pipeline opponent from Upper Uwchlan. A Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officer followed up,  writing that there was a “white material covering the creek bottom” near Ranger Cove at the lake.

“It is possible that remaining bentonite in the soil column at this previous inadvertent return location has been pushed to the surface by the rising water table,” the officer speculated. The officer also collected a water sample to be tested.

Rather than wait for the results, however, outspoken fossil fuel opponent Sen. Katie Muth (D-Montgomery) and her fellow Delaware Valley Democrats Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) and Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Chester) rushed out a statement.

“This is an important reminder that the environmental and health impacts of pipeline construction don’t end when a pipeline is done,” they wrote. “Long after work crews pack up and leave, we must continue to monitor problematic sites for negative impacts related to construction and operation and hold operators accountable for the ongoing costs of remediation, mitigation, and restoration.

“How many times will we be dealing with lingering impacts like these?” fretted the trio. “How long has this been occurring? Again, there are more questions than answers.”

Muth then took her complaints to social media. “Corporate polluters such as Energy Transfer have been given hundreds of permits to operate in our state despite destroying our environment, contaminating our drinking water, and ruining the property and health of Pennsylvania families,” she posted. “This is an important reminder that the environmental and health impacts of pipeline construction don’t end when a pipeline is done.”

And on Thursday, Comitta seized the opportunity during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to bring up the issue during the testimony of DEP Acting Executive Director Ramez Ziadeh.

“Didn’t think this would be on the agenda this year,” she smirked, “but here we are,” Comitta said. “It looks like we’re still having problems [at the pipeline site]. I know DEP approved an emergency plan. Can you provide an update on that?”

Ziadeh’s answer wasn’t what she was expecting.

“We received back the [water] sampling results…that was not bentonite,” said Ziadeh. “So, it was naturally occurring material that leaked based on those test results…The area was remediated completely and cleaned up.”

Comitta appeared surprised that bentonite didn’t make its way into Marsh Creek Lake. “Hot off the press,” she quipped before changing her line of questioning.

Lisa Coleman, a spokesperson for ET/Sunoco, confirmed the finding.

“It has been determined through an independent third-party x-ray diffraction analysis that the sediment found in the area near Marsh Creek Lake is in fact naturally occurring native soil. The major component of the material found is kaolinite, which is not a component of drilling mud or grout used in pipeline construction activities. No bentonite was present. The recent emergence of groundwater and native soils is a common occurrence in wetlands that is both expected and desirable for the health of the wetland.

And, Coleman added, the elected officials who made unfounded public proclamations about the pipeline should now correct the record.

“It is unfortunate that so many rushed to judgment without knowing the facts, including elected officials. We hope that the elected officials who issued public statements based on unsubstantiated information will issue a follow up statement correcting information and instead use their platform to inform their constituents of accurate information rather than unverified rumors.”

The Mariner East 2 project has been in the crosshairs of environmentalists ever since it was announced in 2017 and launched Friel Otten’s political career as part of opposition to the project.

Pipeline owner Sunoco/Energy Transfer paid $4 million in a 2021 settlement with Pennsylvania after more than 21,000 gallons of drilling mud got into the lake during construction. It pleaded no contest to charges brought against it by then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The company cleaned up the non-toxic spill, removed six inches of sediment from Ranger Cove, and restored buffers along the shorelines and streamside.

The construction of the Mariner East pipelines is credited with an estimated $9.1 billion in tax revenue and economic impact to the state.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJournal