Home News Local news EPA Hearing Wednesday Will Address Modifications to Hovensa Permit

EPA Hearing Wednesday Will Address Modifications to Hovensa Permit


March 7, 2008 — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to hold a public meeting Wednesday to gather feedback on Hovensa's proposed modifications to an EPA permit.
One of the modifications is to set final goals for the ongoing groundwater-cleanup project at the refinery, according to Hovensa Vice President Alex Moorhead.
In 1982, then Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp. (HOVIC) discovered petroleum product in the groundwater under the refinery and notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the V.I. Department of Conservation and Cultural Affairs, now known as the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. The company sought technical assistance to investigate the cause of the release of the petroleum product, and the source was determined to be above-ground hydrocarbon storage tanks and underground pipes in the refinery's oily-water sewer system that were leaking, Moorhead said.
"HOVIC subsequently voluntarily began cleanup of the release and making periodic reports to the two agencies," he said.
Cleanup efforts continued when HOVIC changed ownership in 1998 and became known as Hovensa through a joint partnership with the Venezuelan state oil company.
"The cleanup program has been successful — approximately 95 percent of recoverable petroleum products have been recovered," Moorhead said, adding that the amount translates to 42 million gallons that has been cleaned up.
All recovered groundwater is treated in the refinery's wastewater treatment system to separate the petroleum product from the water and to ensure that the water meets DPNR's standards before it gets discharged into the sea, Moorhead said. The petroleum product recovered gets recycled in the refinery.
Hovensa has also instituted measures to prevent future releases, and this includes ensuring that all hydrocarbon and/or chemical-storage tanks, which are not elevated off the ground, are tested on an annual basis for any leak. Every 10 years " these tanks are also taken out of service for physical inspection of their mechanical integrity under actual load conditions by an EPA-allowed mass-measurement method," Moorhead said.
In addition, he said, "any tank that is found to be leaking or fails a test is taken out of service and all underground hydrocarbon lines are pressure tested annually to ensure that they are not leaking, and process wastewater lines are hydrostatically tested at a minimum every three years for the same purpose."
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