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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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EPA: Monitors Removed After Refinery Cleanup Complete

With the exception of two partial containers and some cleaning solution, the potentially harmful chemicals have been removed from the St. Croix refinery, Environmental Protection Agency officials said Wednesday during a virtual town hall meeting.

The map highlights remaining monitoring points for sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide by the federal government (red) and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. (Zoom screenshot)

Lisa Garcia, Region 2 administrator, said the final chemicals, liquid petroleum gas and amines, were removed last month and only a partial container of each remains to be shipped.

EPA official Douglas Kodama added details, saying 26,700 gallons of LPG liquid were recovered and five of six containers were shipped off-island on Aug. 5. The final container will ship by Oct. 24, he added.

Previously, 327,000 gallons of amine liquid were removed from equipment and shipped in June. One partially filled container should ship by the end of August. In May, 84,000 gallons of liquid ammonia were shipped in two containers, he said.

Kodama also announced that hazardous chemicals have been removed from the island, and EPA has discontinued air monitoring fence lines and air monitoring stations.

“So, EPA is currently not at the refinery as no removal activities are going on at this time,” he said.

Another EPA official, Rick Ruvo, talked about air monitoring that will continue, including a federal monitor at Bethlehem Village that will continue to operate whether or not Port Hamilton is open. If the refinery plans to reopen, a monitoring plan must be presented 90 days before and it must be in place 30 days before the operation begins. Port Hamilton has five other monitoring stations that are in operation.

Garcia returned to questions from the last two meetings. She said the EPA plans to host a meeting in October with residents who have questions and interests in applying for superfund status.

“Anyone can file a petition at any time,” she said.

Daryl Jaschen, director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, described the Local Environmental Planning Committee, which comprises government agencies and private entities. They have been meeting monthly since the August fire at the refinery that triggered EPA’s presence and the cleanup. He added that there are also hotlines through VITEMA and 911 can be called for emergencies.

During the question and answer portion of the meeting, EPA officials said that even after a court ruled the federal agency does not have the authority to require Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation to obtain a Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permit to restart the refinery, Port Hamilton has not indicated it is ready to reopen. EPA attorney Paul Simon said the agency has not decided yet if it will appeal the ruling.

“We will continue to review and discuss steps. It is something we’re looking at carefully, so we’ll see,” he said.

EPA attorney Paul Simon talks about the reopening of the Port Hamilton Refinery. (Zoom screenshot)

In response to another question, Port Hamilton estimated the cleanup cost of $17 million, in addition to the cost to EPA, which was not stated.


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