EPA Outlines Plan to Remove Chemicals From Virgin Islands Refinery

Feb. 10, 2023
Conditional approval includes removal of anhydrous ammonia, liquified petroleum gas and amine solutions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EPA has conditionally approved plans to remove chemicals from systems at a U.S. Virgin Islands refinery now owned by West Indies Petroleum Limited and Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation (PHRT), the agency said on Feb. 9.

These plans are part of a legally binding agreement the EPA entered into on Dec. 5 requiring PHRT to remove anhydrous ammonia, liquified petroleum gas and amine solutions that currently pose risks at the facility. The EPA will oversee the work, which will begin with preparation work starting this month. Repairs to the ammonia system are scheduled to begin in early March, and chemical removal is scheduled to begin in early April and expected to be complete sometime this summer.

“This is a critical step forward in safely removing harmful chemicals from the facility and away from the community and workers,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “EPA will be there every step of the way, providing oversight of the safe removal to ensure people’s protection. We will provide the public with updates and make real-time air monitoring data available to the community.”

The West Indies Petroleum Limited and PHRT emerged as the winning bidder for the Limetree Bay refinery from an auction held in bankruptcy court on Dec. 21, 2021.

In May 2021, the EPA ordered the then-owner Limetree Bay to pause all operations at its St. Croix refinery following multiple air emissions incidents due to the imminent and substantial endangerment to public health or welfare of the environment posed by continued refinery operation.

On Dec. 5, 2022, the agency entered into a legal agreement requiring PHRT to hire experts to safely remove chemicals that are not being properly managed at the facility in equipment that EPA had identified as being of concern after an inspection. The order requires full access for EPA to be on site to oversee the work and safety measures in the short-term until the chemicals are removed or secured.

The agency said it will oversee the work to remove the chemicals and will conduct “around-the-clock air monitoring to ensure people’s safety.”

The EPA will display the real-time air monitoring results on a website that will be linked from EPA’s refinery on St. Croix website. The air monitors will measure chemicals associated with the substances required by the order to be removed. EPA will place air monitors at the refinery fence line and at locations within the nearby community. EPA emergency response experts will also use handheld monitors to conduct air monitoring within communities, as appropriate.

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