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Source Article on March 9th


Dear Source:

An article in the Source on March 9th stated, "The amount of petroleum being cleaned up from the groundwater at the St. Croix Hovensa refinery is nearly four times that of the worst oil spill in U.S. history — the Exxon Valdez spill on the Alaskan coast in 1989." There simply is no basis for a comparison between the Exxon Valdez oil spill on Alaskan coastline in 1989 and the groundwater contamination at the HOVENSA refinery.
The Exxon Valdez spill was caused by the grounding of a tanker on a reef which resulted in the spill of approximately 10.9 million gallons of crude oil into the sea, which caused severe environmental damage and eventually contaminated more than 1,000 miles of Alaskan coastline. The spill was a known event because it was clearly visible from vessels in the area and from the air immediately after it occurred.
The presence of petroleum products in the groundwater under the refinery was initially unknown to anyone because the petroleum products were accumulating 30 to 60 feet underground as a result of a series of smaller leaks, mostly from underground pipes. The first evidence of the petroleum products accumulating under the refinery was discovered by HOVIC (the prior owner of the refinery) in 1982 during the installation of wells. That discovery was reported by HOVIC to appropriate local and federal environmental agencies, and the company initiated an investigation.
The cleanup of the petroleum products was begun immediately and voluntarily by HOVIC under the oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") and the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources ("DPNR"). HOVENSA has continued the cleanup project since it became the owner of the refinery late in 1998. All the contaminated groundwater, which is not drinkable because it is naturally brackish, is being treated and discharged in accordance with the refinery's DPNR permit. Extensive steps have been and continue to be taken to prevent leaks from pipes and tanks in the refinery from occurring again. The cleanup and leak prevention program at HOVENSA is regarded as a model program and a success story by EPA.
Unlike the Exxon Valdez incident, there has been no damage to the coastline, no harm to wildlife, no loss of income to fishermen, and no adverse impact on local residents.

Alex A. Moorhead
Hovensa L.L.C.

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