Limetree Bay Refinery faces $259,407 in proposed penalties for 20 Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations, the U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday.
Oil and vapor releases into the air and fiery flares at the St. Croix refinery in February and May led to an investigation that found the operator failed to meet federal workplace chemical safety standards and endangered workers, according to the Labor Department’s news release.
OSHA determined that Limetree Bay Refining did not:
- Compile all necessary information on process equipment and technology, including relief system design, safe operating limits and consequences of deviation from those limits.
- Evaluate and implement controls to manage process hazards adequately.
- Complete a pre-startup safety review.
- Prevent process equipment from operating in a deficient condition.
- Inspect process equipment adequately before returning it to service and introducing hazardous chemicals to the process.
- Develop and implement operating procedures to address conditions that deviate from normal operations.
“There are inherent hazards facing workers in facilities that process large quantities of flammable and toxic chemicals at high temperatures and pressures. Complying with OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard reduces those risks and protects workers,” said OSHA Area Office Director Alfredo Nogueras in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.
“The number and increasing severity of the release incidents at the Christiansted refinery shows us that Limetree Bay Refining LLC was putting workers at risk by permitting serious deficiencies to exist with its process equipment and inadequate process safety management programs,” Nogueras said in the release.
The refinery filed for Chapter 11 protection in July after a short-lived attempt to revive the circa 1960s St. Croix facility, previously owned by Hovensa. The company owes more than $1.2 billion to secured creditors, according to recent court documents.
Limetree was ordered by the EPA to shut down for 60 days on May 12 and undertake corrective measures after multiple major incidents resulted in significant air pollutant and oil releases, including a large accidental flare that sprayed oil over some 137 homes.
On June 21, Limetree announced that it was closing indefinitely due to “severe financial constraints.”
Employers have 15 business days from receipt of citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the news release stated.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education, and assistance.