Members say a blowout will contaminate the Potomac River, a drinking water source.
Frederick, Md (KM). A presentation on the proposed Eastern Panhandle Pipeline Extension was made last week to the Frederick County Council. The line would transport natural gas which has been extracted by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from Pennsylvania through Maryland to the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. The pipeline will be constructed by Trans Canada near Hancock and would travel under the Potomac River and the C&O Canal National Historical Park before it reaches West Virginia.
Deirdre Lally with the Sierra Club of Western Maryland told the Council that the area has karst geology, and would not be suitable for this project. “It’s a porous, water soluble geology comprised mostly of limestone,” she said. “It’s essentially like Swiss cheese because of underground caves and aquifers and it’s highly susceptible to sinkholes.”
“The risks with building a pipeline in karst are that, one: a sinkhole is likely to occur, leaving the pipeline unsupported and in conditions that could lead to stress and failure,” she said. “And, two: liquid travels quickly and unpredictably, rapidly bringing any contaminates to drinking water supplies.”
If there was a blowout in these underground lines, the gas would travel these caverns contaminate the Potomac River which is a source of drinking water for many communities down stream from Hancock, she says. . “As I understand it, about 91% of Frederick County drinking water comes from the Potomac River. And the city of Frederick receives 17% of its annual water supply from the Potomac,” says Lally.
Another presenter was Harry George of Frederick, who said Maryland will not benefit economically from this pipeline. “None of this gas is destined for Maryland,” he said. “It is destined for the West Virginia Panhandle.”
George, representing the Smarter Growth Alliance, urged the Council to write a letter to Governor Larry Hogan, asking him to deny the Clean Water Act certification for this project until a review is conducted by the Maryland Department of the Environment. “The potential risks with 91% of the county’s water, 17% of the city’s water, the potential risks to Frederick County and city water is too great to not require this. Don’t fast track it,” he said.
Members of the Council said they had no objections to a review of this project. Councilman Tony Chmelik wanted to see the letter before he signs it. The panel said a letter may go out to collectively representing the Council, or individual Council members could send out their own letters expressing their views on this project.
The packet presented to the Council contained letters of opposition from the Smarter Growth Alliance, the Mayor and Council of Boonsboro, the Prince George’s County Council and the District of Columbia City Council, all in opposition.
By Kevin McManus