The owners of a refinery in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands must hire specialists to remove about 80,000 pounds of hazardous chemicals that were allegedly mismanaged in ways that created potential for an emergency release.
Under the terms of an order from EPA Region 2, the refinery must hire an approved contractor to assess systems containing ammonia, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), amines, and hydrogen sulfide so that the substances can be safely contained and removed.
The facility will also take interim measures to improve chemical safety, such as increased monitoring and inspections, improved emergency preparedness, and personnel re-training.
Unsafe Conditions Found During Inspection
Under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, facilities that produce, process, use, or store extremely hazardous substances have a “general duty” to assess the risks of an accidental chemical release. Covered facilities must take steps to prevent releases and minimize the consequences of releases that do occur.
During an inspection of the facility in September 2022, EPA officials “observed conditions demonstrating a systemic lack of maintenance” at the refinery, including:
- Extreme corrosion and deterioration on process equipment (valves, pipes, gaskets, etc.),
- Exposed electrical wiring in areas where flammable substances are located, and
- Liquid leaking from drain lines.
According to US EPA, facility owners were not able to demonstrate compliance with requirements for hazard assessments, process design, equipment inspection and testing, or employee training for processes involving extremely hazardous substances.
EPA also alleges that the company did not have a preventative maintenance program in place. Owners of the facility stated that employees performed safety walk-throughs each day, but could not provide supporting documentation.
Emergency Order to Pause Operations (2021)
In 2021, US EPA issued an emergency order to pause all operations at the St. Croix refinery following “multiple major mishaps resulting in significant air pollution and oil releases.” The facility must also obtain a new Clean Air Act permit before operations may resume.
EPA took numerous enforcement actions related to the facility before entering into the legal-binding agreement requiring removal of hazardous chemicals from the site.
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