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Innovative Cleanup of St. Croix Alumina Contamination Begin

Release Date: 02/21/2002
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(#02007) New York, N.Y. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that the clean- up of an underground plume of oil at the St. Croix Alumina facility located at 1 Estate Anguilla, in Kingshill, St. Croix is underway. Under a consent agreement with EPA signed in May 2001, the past and present entities that owned or operated the St. Croix Alumina and HOVENSA (formerly HOVIC) facilities were required to share responsibility for cleaning up an estimated 900,000 to over two million gallons of petroleum present in the groundwater underlying the aluminum facility. Under the agreement, the companies developed a design plan for recovering the oil, which was approved by EPA.

The cleanup is being done using an innovative technology involving wind to power the recovery system. Six “recovery” wells, which pump both oil and water from the ground, are drilled into the ground water in the contaminated area and are powered by turbines driven by tall windmills (see image on 2nd page). The recovered oil/water mixture is sent to the adjacent HOVENSA refinery where the oil is separated from the water and recycled into HOVENSA’s petroleum refining process. Six additional “observation” wells, which do not pump oil or water, are located near the recovery wells and monitor the effectiveness of the removal operation. In addition, nine other observation wells, located beyond the plume of underground contamination, will be periodically monitored to ensure that petroleum is not moving toward the Caribbean Sea, which forms the southern border of the St. Croix Alumina facility.

“We are very gratified that the work to clean up St. Croix Alumina commenced on time, and that all of the parties involved have been able to work together to improve the environment of St. Croix,” said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. “Now that the treatment system is operational, each passing day diminishes the threat to the island’s sensitive marine ecology.”

The petroleum was released from approximately 1978 to 1991 from storage tanks and underground piping at both St. Croix Alumina and the former HOVIC facility, which borders the aluminum company to the east. The oil seeped into the soil at both facilities and eventually reached the ground water. Much of the oil is now floating on top of the ground water, although some of it has dissolved into the water itself. The ground water in this area flows in the general direction of the Caribbean Sea.

Seven companies that owned or operated the current St. Croix Alumina and HOVENSA facilities either while or after the releases occurred are carrying out the work in the order. They include: St. Croix Alumina, L.L.C.; ALCOA World Alumina, L.L.C.; Lockheed Martin Corporation; Virgin Islands Alumina Company; Century Aluminum Company, Inc.; and Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corporation (HOVIC) and HOVENSA, L.L.C. (the past and present owners/operators of the oil refinery). The cleanup of a large oil plume underlying HOVENSA has been ongoing since 1987 under a permit from EPA, and is separate from the order to clean up the plume under the St. Croix Alumina facility. To date, over 35 million gallons of oil has been recovered as part of the HOVENSA cleanup.

The cleanup of the petroleum under St. Croix Alumina will take at an estimated five years.