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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsCoast Guard Continues Oversight of Diesel Oil Spill at WAPA on STT

Coast Guard Continues Oversight of Diesel Oil Spill at WAPA on STT

The Randolph Harley Power Plant on St. Thomas. (Photo courtesy of USCG)

The U.S. Coast Guard continues oversight of ongoing response efforts following a diesel spill at the V.I. Water and Power Authority Randolph Harley Power Plant on St. Thomas on Saturday, the agency said Wednesday.

The spill occurred when a shipment of diesel was offloaded at the Harley plant late last week and one of the onshore storage tanks appears to have overflowed. About 30-40 percent of the spillage ended up outside the tank’s exterior secondary containment unit, which is meant to function like a dam to contain the liquid, WAPA CEO Andy Smith said at the time.

So far, the oil recovery crews have collected 18,000 gallons of diesel and water from the discharge tank’s secondary containment and an additional 8,000 gallons of diesel and water have been collected from the affected land outside the secondary containment, the press release stated.

As of Wednesday morning, the facility had emptied the No. 11 tank, the primary source of the discharge, and only sludge and residual material remain inside the tank. Responders continue working to fully empty the tank and recover all residual material, the release stated.

Responders have also recovered all diesel from the secondary containment and efforts are underway to decontaminate the space and continue assessments to identify the breach point that caused diesel to spill landside, the Coast Guard said.

Sludge and residual matter inside tank No. 11. (Photo courtesy of USCG)

Oil recovery crews continue the bulk collection of diesel from the affected topsoil and have dug deeper trenches to guide the material to established collection points for its recovery, according to the release. Crews have also placed absorbents to collect the diesel material within the established collection points and prevent it from further spreading into the environment, it said, and WAPA is also working on a plan to recover and properly dispose of the contaminated soil.

The Coast Guard continues to monitor any potential impacts to the waterway, although no impacts have been identified at this time, the release stated. Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team personnel will be arriving on St. Thomas to further assist with potential waterway impact assessments and response oversight, it said.

“Heavy rain, steep terrain and equipment limitations have slowed certain aspects of the pollution response. However, substantial progress has been made,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Sanders, who is a Coast Guard marine science technician and the federal on-scene coordinator representative for the response.

“No impacts to the waterway have been observed and we are working closely with WAPA to ensure that it remains that way. WAPA has been responsive to our requirements and we both share the same priorities, which are to protect the health of the community while mitigating any environmental impacts,” he said.

Coast Guard personnel on St. Thomas received initial notification of the incident on Sunday. Following the initial report, Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a National Response Center report notifying them of the diesel spill that occurred on Saturday after WAPA’s No. 11 tank overflowed and spilled an undetermined amount of diesel into the secondary containment area, the release stated.

A Coast Guard representative visited the facility on Sunday and confirmed diesel had escaped from the secondary containment, affecting the land outside the containment area. During a follow-up visit on Monday, excessive pooling of diesel was discovered outside the secondary containment, according to the release.

Land affected outside the containment area. (Photo courtesy of USCG)

The circumstances that caused the spill are under investigation. Further assessments are required to determine the actual amount of diesel spilled into the secondary containment and the amount that was spilled landside, it said.


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