Last month, Limetree Bay experienced what it is calling an upset in the refinery at Flare Unit No. 8. This incident resulted in a release of steam and oil which traveled northwest, according to a March 4 release from the refinery. This is the second such release since the refinery began restart operations. There was a release in December of 2020. These releases reprise a similar periodic pattern of contamination that occurred at the former Hovensa refinery at the same site until its closure in 2012.
The release reportedly occurred while operations were quenching one of the coke drums, and the quenching operation was stopped to end the release.
According to the refinery, initial investigations did not reveal any impact beyond the refinery’s fence line, but later learned the release impacted the surrounding community. Once Limetree was made aware that there was an impact on the community, its environmental teams were immediately dispatched to neighboring areas to assess that impact.
After further investigation, Limetree’s environmental team was able to verify the area impacted by the release, which was determined to be the Clifton Hill community. While the release did not present a health hazard to the public, Limetree determined that oil droplets were present on some vehicles and roofs in the area and implemented a plan to clean those roofs and vehicles.
According to the refinery, Limetree executed its response plan and began cleaning cars immediately. The response plan included inspection and assessment of cars, roofs and properties, and assisting in disconnecting cisterns from roofs. In addition, Limetree retained a third-party to sample cistern water for oil and grease, and this data is being analyzed in an EPA-certified lab in Florida (PACE Lab).
To the residents whose cisterns were disconnected, Limetree officials say they provided drinking water on a daily basis, which was delivered to their doors. Limetree also went door-to-door to all the residents in Clifton Hill and responded to all the complaints received. An area of impact was delineated on a map, and the plan for cisterns is to empty, clean and refill with potable water all cisterns that lab results show a detection. Residents whose lab results show non-detect will have their cisterns topped off with potable water.
According to the refinery, all applicable regulatory agencies were notified at the time of the incident, and Limetree reportedly continues to work with both local and federal agency partners to ensure the continued safety of its personnel, the public and the environment.
Similar incidents occurred periodically at the former Hovensa refinery, which closed in 2012. Limetree Bay is working to restart a portion of the former Hovensa refinery.
On a number of occasions, steam and hydrocarbon sprays resulted in odor complaints, oil on cars and houses and, on at least one occasion, significant hydrocarbon contamination of residential water cisterns in surrounding neighborhoods.