During a virtual community meeting Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency discussed its discovery of liquefied petroleum gas at the St. Croix refinery that it said was not previously reported by owner Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation.
“The last week of September the EPA conducted a ‘Second General Duty’ clause inspection at the refinery. During this inspection, it was confirmed that there was additional LPG stored at the refinery. Approximately 32,500 gallons of LPG are in LPG units 1 and 2,” said EPA Region 2 Response and Prevention Branch Chief Doug Kodama.
Liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, is a fuel gas that contains a flammable mixture of hydrocarbon gases. LPG is typically stored inside a pressurized vessel to keep the gas in a liquid state, according to the EPA. LPG generally has no odor unless a chemical is injected into the gas to cause it to smell. Odor-causing chemicals have not been added to the LPG stored at the facility, so no odors are associated with this material, the agency said.
Kodama said that the EPA relies on inventories of materials provided by Port Hamilton when it conducts inspections. “It is not obvious which vessels and containers have materials in them when walking through the refinery. We rely on an accurate inventory. This newly discovered LPG was not listed in the inventory provided to EPA, but we inspected the facility over a year ago in 2022,” said Kodama. Those inspections in the 2022 findings were the basis for the order of consent that the EPA ordered with Port Hamilton, which resulted in the removal of materials over the summer.
“In September 2022 the EPA conducted a ‘Clean Air Act’ general duty clause inspection. We noticed some areas of concern and as a result of that in December 2022 EPA entered into an order of consent with Port Hamilton. Last spring the work began to remove the materials under the order. The removal of the materials from the containers was completed in the summer,” said Kodama.
Under EPA oversight, Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation removed anhydrous ammonia, amines, and LPG from the facility as required by the legal action ordered by the EPA.
Of the LPG that was removed, five shipping containers were transported off the island and one partially filled container remains at the refinery for disposal. This partially filled container is not suitable for reuse and will be disposed of through incineration, according to the EPA.
In addition to the one container, there are rinse waters from cleaning out the systems remaining at the refinery.
The EPA is currently in the process of finalizing the results of its recent inspection report. A version of the report will be made available to the public.
EPA Region 2 Administrator Lisa F. Garcia, said, “To restart the refinery, as we have been saying all along, Port Hamilton has to give EPA and the federal District Court at least 90 days’ notice and specific types of information before the restart.”
During the question-and-answer portion, Jennifer Valiulis from the St. Croix Environmental Association asked, “In light of the finding of the new LPG is it possible that there are other things that we do not know about? Is there more that we are missing that will pop up later?”
Kodama responded, “We have the same concern. It is concerning to find that there was material we should have been aware of a year ago that we recently became aware of it. That is one reason we are being careful about how we finalize this report. We want it to be a complete effort that we don’t find out anything additional at the refinery.”
Other government agencies attended the meeting, including the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency. To see the complete town hall, click here.