Pipeline Blow Out Causes House Condemnation
Soon after drilling sludge entered a local stream, an Upper Freehold resident was forced to leave her house.
By Joint Press ReleaseJune 22, 2020
“I was almost too terrified to investigate after what had felt like an explosion in my house. I discovered huge cracks in my foundation, my basement floor, and even my walls! As I watched in horror water and sludge came pouring in through the cracks. I ran to the construction site and begged them to stop”- Impacted Homeowner, Upper Freehold Township
The Chesterfield Building Inspector condemned a resident’s home yesterday due to a hydrological incident involving drilling. The slab of the home cracked due to hydrostatic pressure and the building inspector advised the residents to leave for their safety. New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) is currently drilling in Upper Freehold for their Southern Reliability Link (SRL) pipeline and already caused siltation in nearby streams. The NJ Sierra Club sent a letter to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) urging them to take action and put in a stop-work order for the pipeline.
“Today there was a disaster, someone’s house is being condemned because DEP and Governor Murphy did not put a stop-work order on this SRL pipeline. This unnecessary and damaging pipeline has caused a nightmare for residents along the route. Even though there were violations early in the project, NJNG continued to drill. This was after a discharge that caused siltation in nearby streams and may have caused a blowout. This has caused water and other groundwater that has ended up at this resident’s home causing it to be condemned, ” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We have asked the DEP, Governor Murphy, and the Pinelands Commission for a stay because we are challenging NJNG in court. What we have been warning against has now happened. Since DEP and the county did not hold NJNG accountable after continued violations, we now have a catastrophe because of that.”
The Allentown fire department was called as was the building inspector. Grey material in the stream appears to be bentonite, which contains hazardous materials. The town’s building inspector believes this was caused by hydrological pressure from horizontal directional drilling (“HDD”) that came through the ground and moved the resident’s basement slab, destabilizing the house.
“PPA and Sierra Club raised the fact that New Jersey Natural Gas had done no meaningful studies of the hydrological risks of construction along this pipeline route,” said Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director of Pinelands Preservation Alliance. “We submitted expert reports demonstrating that the company’s proposed methods were unduly risky. Yet the company insisted on a route along well-populated local roads, and the Pinelands Commission, Board of Public Utilities (BPU), and DEP all just rubber-stamped the company’s assertions that all would be well. It is especially galling that all this harm is being done for a pipeline that is completely unnecessary for serving the public.”
The proposed SRL pipeline would connect to a compressor station in Chesterfield and run 28 miles of pipe through Burlington, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties. NJNG has claimed the pipeline is for reliability and not necessity.
“Governor Murphy’s inability to protect his constituents from a corporation acting with total negligence and disregard for the safety of New Jersey communities is, frankly, embarrassing,” said Food & Water Action NJ Director Matt Smith. “With the reckless decision to allow pipeline construction to continue during the worst days of the pandemic, the Murphy administration has created extremely dangerous conditions for pipeline workers and local residents alike. While sheltering at home, residents have suffered from noxious diesel fumes entering their homes, with streets and driveways blocked for hours at a time blocking food and medicine deliveries, and now the literal destruction and flooding of someone’s home due to pipeline drilling activities. Since New Jersey Natural Gas has ignored prior stop-work orders by Burlington County for violating their permit conditions, this latest incident is clear and final proof that the whole pipeline project needs to be shut down for good. We’re still waiting for Governor Murphy to act.”
The SRL is disastrous for the Pinelands, which is the largest open space on the eastern seaboard and recognized for its biodiversity by the United Nations. It is also the country’s first National Reserve and holds 17 trillion gallons of water in its aquifer.
“I was aghast to see the creeks and streams on her property that were clear and filled with minnows just the day before to be covered in a muddy gray substance. This siltation has bentonite and other hazardous chemicals in it that will have serious impacts to groundwater and nearby homes,” said Agnes Marsala, President of People Over Pipelines.
“At a minimum, BPU and DEP need to halt construction and ask the Appeals Court to rule on our pending appeals against the pipeline approvals. There is no justification for continuing dangerous construction when the very legality of the pipeline is very much in doubt,” said Montgomery and Tittel.