June 15, 2005 – Hovensa Monday reported a spill of benzene, a hazardous substance, from one of its above ground storage tanks.
Commissioner Dean C. Plaskett, of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, said in a press release that the rate of the spill is estimated to be approximately 10 gallons per hour. The hazardous substance spill was reported to the National Response Center and the Local Emergency Planning Committee within 24-hours of discovery of the incident.
DPNR is providing this information to the public, as the spill volume is reportable (greater than 10 pounds) under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.
The spill originated from a leak at the base of Tank No. 7602, a 327,000 barrel above-ground storage tank. The leak was discovered during a scheduled high precision test to determine the integrity of the tank. The duration of the spill and therefore the volume of the spill have yet to be determined. Hovensa is required to submit a report by June 20.
According to Plaskett, DPNRs first priority is to commit all available resources, in full cooperation with other entities involved with this continuing chemical release, in a mutual effort to insure the protection of human life.
A statement from Alex Moorhead, Hovensa vice president, called it a "suspected leaking tank." He added there is no visible evidence of a leak at the tank.
An industrial hygienist has conducted air analysis around the tank and established there is no benzene in the atmosphere above the permissible limit established by the Occupational Health & Safety Administration. Air testing will continue several times daily until the tank empty and removed from service, according to the Hovensa statement.
The DPNR release said that while the investigation into the exact cause and the extent of impacts and damages resulting from this incident are far from complete, the apparent magnitude of the chemical release and the proximity to coastal and groundwater resources certainly demands nothing less than the full accountability of those determined to be responsible.
Plaskett added, "Releases of this nature, while unfortunate, appear consistent with past activities and we will continue to send a clear message to polluters that they will be held accountable for any documented damage to our Territory's natural resources."
Hovensa is named as one of seven defendants in a suit filed by DPNR claiming pollution of St. Croix's ground water.
(See "DPNR Claims Refinery Polluted Groundwater").
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