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U.S. Attorney and EPA Present Hess $1 Million To Governor Turnbull; Funds To Be Used For Major Environmental Improvements, Especially To Landfills

Release Date: 11/04/1999
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(#99173) New York, N.Y. -- At a ceremony at 10 A.M. today at the United States Attorney of the Virgin Islands office on St. Thomas, U.S. Attorney James A. Hurd, Jr. and Carl Soderberg, Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Caribbean Division presented Governor Charles W. Turnbull with a check for $1 million to be used for environmental improvements on the Islands. The funds are part of a $2.3 million restitution paid by Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corporation (HOVIC) in 1996 (in addition to a $3 million penalty) after the company pleaded guilty to knowingly shipping a hazardous waste labeled as "non-hazardous" to a facility not authorized by EPA to handle hazardous waste. Joining the Governor and federal representatives at the ceremony were Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Commissioner Dean C. Plaskett, Department of Public Works (DPW) Commissioner Harold Thompson, Jr., and Shawn-Michael Malone, a representative of Congressional Delegate Donna Christian-Christensen.

"We anticipate that the improvements suggested by the Virgin Islands and agreed to by EPA will help the territory make significant inroads toward better environmental protection," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "We are very pleased that Governor Turnbull and his administration recognized the need to use the $1 million to improve the management of solid waste and used oil on the Islands. EPA's efforts made it possible for Hess' past environmental violation to bear the silver lining of these very necessary improvements, and we look forward to seeing the positive results of their implementation."

"Hazardous waste was mislabeled. Fortunately, it was discovered before anyone was harmed by it," said James A. Hurd, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands. "Several years ago, HOVIC cooperated in the investigation, responded appropriately, and stood before a federal court and admitted committing a felony violation. The company has paid a large fine, and agreed to make restitution. Today the Virgin Islands received $1 million to help address environmental problems and the health of our islands and our residents. With the discovery of one problem, we hope to help address others. We look forward to the environmental progress that the Virgin Islands Government will make with the receipt of the monies from this criminal case."

Under an agreement with EPA, DPNR and DPW will use the $1 million to make much-needed improvements to Bovoni and Anguilla landfills, and to begin a comprehensive used oil collection and disposal program. Specific improvements will include:

* Installing security fencing around Bovoni and Anguilla landfills;

* Removing and properly disposing of hazardous waste from Bovoni landfill;

* Removing and properly disposing of used oil and remediating used oil-contaminated soil from Bovoni;

* Installing video surveillance cameras at Bovoni and Anguilla to observe trucks as materials are brought in for disposal to ensure that hazardous substances do not enter the landfills;

* Drilling an additional groundwater monitoring well at Bovoni and performing groundwater monitoring at both landfills; and

* Implementing a comprehensive program to collect and reuse used oil including hiring staff and adding 20 new used oil collection centers at housing complexes throughout the territory to the seven existing collection centers.

In 1996, HOVIC pleaded guilty to shipping more than 600,000 pounds of benzene-containing hazardous waste from its St. Croix refinery to a cement company in Arizona as non-hazardous waste -- a violation of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which governs hazardous waste management. HOVIC's violation was discovered when some of the drums in which the waste was transported began to spontaneously combust. Fortunately, no one was injured. HOVIC cooperated with the U.S. Attorney's and EPA's investigation into the matter, and as part of its plea bargain, agreed to pay the Government of the Virgin Islands $1 million as restitution to be used for environmental improvements on the Islands. EPA worked with DPNR and DPW to develop a plan to spend the money to address some of the most pressing environmental concerns in the territories, and will continue to assist the Virgin Islands in its efforts to do so.

For more information contact:

Nina Habib Spencer, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3670 FAX: 212-637-4445 E-Mail: habib.nina@epamail.epa.gov