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EPA Finalizes Plan to Clean Up St. Croix Alumina Contamination; Work Set to Begin

Release Date: 05/17/2001
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(#01056) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signed and finalized a plan to clean up an underground plume of oil at the St. Croix Alumina facility located at 1 Estate Anguilla, in Kingshill, St. Croix. The plan -- technically called an "Administrative Order on Consent" – calls for the seven past and present entities that owned or operated the St. Croix Alumina and HOVENSA (formerly HOVIC) facilities to share responsibility for cleaning up an estimated 900,000 to over 2 million gallons of petroleum present in the groundwater underlying the aluminum facility. The work will be overseen by EPA.

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 groundwater. Much of the oil is now floating on top of the groundwater, although some of it has dissolved into the water itself. The groundwater in this area flows in the general direction of the Caribbean Sea, which forms the southern border of St. Croix Alumina. EPA is concerned that the oil plume could reach the Caribbean if it is not cleaned up.

The seven companies that owned or operated the current St. Croix Alumina and HOVENSA facilities either while or after the releases occurred are: 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, approximately 35 million gallons of oil has been recovered as part of the HOVENSA cleanup.

EPA signed the order after holding a public meeting on St. Croix on January 17, 2001 to discuss the proposed clean-up plan with interested residents. The agency received several public comments about the proposed plan -- including comments from the V.I. Department of Planning & Natural Resources, two Virgin Islands senators, and a St. Croix community group – each of which were considered and addressed by EPA before it signed the final order.

Under the order, the first item of business for the seven companies will be to submit to EPA a final work plan to clean up the petroleum floating on the groundwater under St. Croix Alumina. The companies have already submitted the basic details of the plan to EPA in a "Joint Technical Proposal," which was made available for public review during EPA’s public comment period, which ended on February 14, 2001. The final work plan is due within 60 days. EPA will review the plan, and if it finds the plan to be acceptable, will give its written approval. Work will begin within 30 days after approval. The seven companies will share responsibility for the cleanup, which will take an estimated four to five years.