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Wednesday, June 12, 2024


Nov. 16, 2001 – Some 900 gallons of sulfuric acid that leaked into the Caribbean Sea from a tank at St. Croix Alumina Thursday caused limited environmental damage, according to Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett.
DPNR learned around 10 a.m. Thursday of a leaking flange on a 97,000-gallon holding tank which allowed the acid to spill onto a concrete pad, run into a ditch and then flow into the sea, Plaskett said. When the acid mixed with storm water in the ditch, a vapor cloud formed but "quickly subsided," he said.
Despite evidence of burned trees and grass and one dead white mangrove tree, Plaskett said, the "environmental impact was minimal." He added, "There is no coral reef in the area."
The situation was under control by Thursday afternoon, Plaskett said, with the leak slowed to five gallons per hour. The sulfuric acid was contained in a berm lined with acid-resistant plastic and was to be pumped into a tank containing caustic acid to neutralize it, he said..
"I've been assured that there is no threat to the residents of St. Croix," Plaskett said, adding that DPNR will investigate to determine if the leak was due to negligence. "We are going to conduct a thorough assessment of the environment in the area."
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency personnel also will investigate the incident.
Sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, oily liquid used to make such products as detergents and paint. The Aluminum Company of America, which owns St. Croix Alumina, closed the plant earlier this year. A skeleton crew has remained on site to manage the facility.
It was unclear why the acid was stored in the tank. St. Croix Alumina officials could not be reached for comment.

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