Under a consent decree announced Wednesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department, the V.I. Water and Power Authority will come into compliance with air pollution control requirements included in the federal Clean Air Act at its Estate Richmond Generating Facility on St. Croix, EPA said in a press release.
“This legal agreement will go a long way toward reducing air pollution in St. Croix and beyond,” EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said. “EPA is committed to protecting communities on St. Croix that are threatened by air pollution.”
These air pollution controls will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter that can cause serious respiratory health effects. These pollutants are linked to serious health problems, including asthma and lung and heart disease.
The press release indicates EPA has worked with WAPA over the past several years to address its violations and operations at the St. Croix facility. As a result of that work, WAPA has already repaired and replaced pollution controls and monitoring equipment at the facility. It replaced its data system, significantly repaired at least one unit and began purchasing better quality fuel.
To date, WAPA spent approximately $4 million to come into compliance with pollution control requirements and will spend at least $2 million a year to maintain compliance, the press release indicates.
WAPA will also pay a $700,000 penalty. When the complaint was filed about a year ago, the legal suit sought civil penalties of up to $32,500 per day for each violation on or between March 15, 2004, and Jan. 11, 2009, as well as $37,500 for each violation thereafter.
WAPA Director Hugo Hodge Jr. said he was pleased EPA took notice of WAPA’s efforts to come into compliance.
“We’ve been working toward compliance the entire time I’ve been here,” Hodge said, adding that he’s been on the job six years.
He said that some of WAPA’s problems occurred because the authority didn’t budget for technicians to attend immediately to problems. He said that instead, WAPA waited for a contractor to arrive from the mainland.
“We realize now we have to keep a technician on hand and we’ve trained staff,” he said.
Additionally, Hodge said WAPA had reporting issues. He also noted that WAPA’s conversion to natural gas would go a long way toward reducing emissions.
EPA and the Justice Department found that the facility violated limits on nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. This agreement is expected to reduce nitrogen oxides emissions by approximately 115 tons per year. The agreement is expected to reduce particulate matter emissions by approximately 3 tons per year.
“Residents will breath cleaner air as a result of this agreement to reduce air pollution emissions and bring WAPA into compliance with the nation’s Clean Air Act,” Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in the press release. “The Justice Department and our partners at EPA are committed to addressing large sources of pollution to ensure the maximum positive impact on public health and the environment.”
Under the EPA’s air permit requirements, large industrial facilities that make modifications that increase air pollution emissions must install best available control technology. EPA found that WAPA had not properly operated nor maintained its water to fuel injection pollution control system from October 2005 through December 2012.
The facility also failed to meet the particulate matter emission limit during testing of emissions from its stacks and failed to conduct continuous monitoring to ensure compliance with its limits. The EPA found that the facility violated its limits for nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. WAPA also did not keep proper records.
The consent decree was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of the Virgin Islands. Notice of the lodging of the consent decree will appear in the Federal Register allowing for a 30-day public comment period before the consent decree can be entered by the court as final judgment. The consent decree will available for viewing at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html
Under the agreement, WAPA will:
– properly operate and maintain the water to fuel injection pollution control system;
– develop and maintain an inventory of spare parts for the facility’s water to fuel injection system and emission monitoring equipment;
– test and properly operate a “real-time” emission monitoring system to ensure compliance with air pollution limits;
– conduct quality assurance testing of air monitoring systems;
– conduct stack tests to demonstrate compliance with the Clean Air Act;
– and employ an independent third party to develop protocols, enable proper operation of the air pollution monitoring systems, train staff and audit its compliance for three years.