The V.I. government Thursday received $1 million of a $5.3 million criminal fine levied against Hess Oil of the Virgin Islands Corp. three years ago for violating federal environmental laws.
At a press conference at the U.S. Attorney’s Office on St. Thomas Thursday, Gov. Charles Turnbull was presented with the territory’s share of a $2.3 million restitution plan paid by HOVIC in 1996 in addition to a $3 million penalty. The $1 million will be used at the territory’s two landfills and to develop a used oil management program, Turnbull said.
"This will go a long way to assist the territory address the less than satisfactory landfills," Turnbull said.
In 1996, HOVIC admitted to illegally shipping more than 300 tons of benzene-tainted waste to an Arizona cement factory in containers marked as "non-hazardous." Federal officials said that between Dec. 11, 1991 and Feb. 9, 1992, employees knowingly shipped approximately 1,400, 55-gallon drums containing spent refinery catalyst that exceeded the federal limits for benzene.
U.S. Attorney James Hurd Jr. said the reason why the government hadn’t received its portion of the fine sooner was because Turnbull’s predecessor never submitted a plan that explained how the money would be used. Hurd said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviewed the current administration’s plan and then it was accepted by the District Court judge overseeing the case.
According to Department of Public Works Commissioner Harold Thompson, the money will be used to remove hazardous waste material and conduct ground water monitoring at the Bovoni and Anguilla landfills. He added that the proceeds of the fine will also help the department operate its used oil collection program, which receives approximately 3,000 gallons of used oil each month from island residents.
"This money will help us add to and improve our collection centers and testing," Thompson said.
The EPA has mandated that the government implement a comprehensive solid waste management program to address the problems at the landfills. Over the last decade the Bovoni Landfill on St. Thomas has had reoccurring methane gas fires that have caused neighbors to complain of various ailments caused by heavy smoke. There also is concern that runoff from the landfill is harming an adjacent lagoon that is home to one of the territory’s last mangrove forests, which also serves as a breeding ground for a variety of marine life.
On St. Croix, the Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the government to shut down the Anguilla dump by December 2001 because birds attracted to the site pose a hazard to aircraft at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport.
"With the case we just solved here, we’ll jump start further environmental projects like the landfills," said Carl-Axel Soderberg, EPA director of the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.
The State of Arizona received $1 million from the fine while Texas was granted $300,000.


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