Letter to the Editor: Why is Middletown siding with the pipeline? | Opinion

To the Times:

For weeks, the sounds of loud construction have awoken Middletown residents living in the Glen Riddle Apartments.  For these residents, it is a constant struggle – early in the morning, even on the weekends – in their homes.  People working from home struggle to hold conversations.  Children attending school virtually can’t concentrate.  Babies can’t nap. 

Residents who are on the front line of the pandemic working night shifts at nearby hospitals are unable to get the rest they need during the day. The unreasonably loud noise emanates from construction of a Sunoco pipeline directly outside of their windows, and it regularly exceeds 100 decibels.  According to the government, regular noise over 70 decibels can cause hearing damage or loss.   

The construction of the Sunoco pipeline is causing these interruptions in the lives and well-being of residents.  Instead of holding Sunoco accountable and protecting its residents – as it has the power to do, Middletown Township officials have sided with Sunoco.  

When Sunoco began construction in November, they did so with little notice and less oversight.  Worse, Sunoco has shown no consideration for the people who live and work nearby.  In the days and weeks since construction started, school buses have been unable to operate normally, forcing students to wait on the dangerous state road that passes Glen Riddle.  People have been unable to park near their homes and, in some cases, have even had to park on busy streets far away.  They have been unable to access community resources, including recycling facilities.  

Despite many calls, emails, and legal actions, Sunoco has refused to provide any meaningful response or work plans that would help the residents plan for or adjust to this life-altering interruption.  Middletown residents have no idea what Sunoco will do next, how the construction will spread, where it will go, how loud it will get, or when it will end.  

At the state level, complaints have been filed with the Public Utilities Commission, the attorney general, and the Department of Health.  Locally, Middletown Township has been contacted repeatedly by residents, real estate owners, advocacy groups, school district officials, and others.  Although the fire department and township engineers have visited the site, they too have kept the safety and work plans Sunoco has shared with the Township from the residents.   Worse, Middletown Township has allowed construction to move forward for months amidst this dangerous uncertainty. State Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168 of Middletown, too, has been aware of the issues for months.

Although the noise permeates every part of the lives of the affected residents, other, mounting safety concerns loom as well.  Sunoco’s construction has impacted the ability of emergency responders to access the homes of these residents.  Sunoco has planned to install barriers that could make it more difficult for residents to evacuate their homes in an emergency.  During the last snowfall, Sunoco causedRose Tree School District students  to wait on the icy street to board their buses due to the construction on site. How can this type of dangerous situation continue to be ignored?

It is time for Middletown Township elected officials to act.  They must enforce the common sense  laws created to protect residents.  They must at least attempt to stop construction until Sunoco agrees to share a full and complete plan with the people who are being affected.  Middletown Township should hold public hearings to take feedback and input from community members.  Independent, third-parties should be engaged to ensure Sunoco meets all regulations and is true to the plans it shares.  

Fears of what can happen when Sunoco operates unchecked are real.  The pipeline has been proven to be harmful to other communities.  The Department of Environmental Protection has issued more than 100 citations against Sunoco, including polluting wetlands, waterways, private water wells, even resulting in the loss of drinking water for residents of a Chester County community.

The Sunoco pipeline unfortunately cannot be stopped, but there is still time to ensure that the safety and well-being of residents living near it are prioritized.  It is up to the Middletown Township elected officials to do whatever it takes to put them first.  If they fail to do so, it is up to us to find out why.

Stephen Iaccobucci, Iaccobucci Companies

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