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Press Release | Nov. 1, 2023

Coast Guard continues oversight of power plant diesel spill response in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

ST THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Coast Guard continues oversight of ongoing response efforts at the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) Randolph Harley Power Plant in St. Thomas, Wednesday, following a diesel spill at the facility on Oct. 25, 2023. 

So far, the oil recovery crews have collected 18,000 gallons of diesel and water from the discharge tank’s secondary containment and an additional 8,000 gallons of diesel and water have been collected from the affected land outside the secondary containment.

As of Wednesday morning, the facility has emptied the number 11 tank, the primary source of the discharge, only sludge and residual material remain inside the tank.  Responders continue working to fully empty the tank and recover all residual material. Responders have also recovered all diesel from the secondary containment and efforts are underway to decontaminate the space and continue assessments to identify the breach point that caused diesel to spill landside.  Oil recovery crews continue the bulk collection of diesel from the affected topsoil and have dug deeper trenches to guide the material to established collection points for its recovery. Crews have also placed absorbents to collect the diesel material within the established collection points and prevent it from further spreading into the environment. The facility is also working on a plan to recover and properly dispose of the contaminated soil.

The Coast Guard continues to monitor any potential impacts to the waterway, although no impacts have been identified at this time.  Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team personnel will be arriving to St. Thomas to further assist with potential waterway impact assessments and response oversight. 

"Heavy rain, steep terrain and equipment limitations have slowed certain aspects of the pollution response however, substantial progress has been made." said Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Sanders, who is a Coast Guard Marine Science Technician and the federal on-scene coordinator representative for the response. “No impacts to the waterway have been observed and we are working closely with WAPA to ensure that it remains that way.  WAPA has been responsive to our requirements and we both share the same priorities which are to protect the health of the community while mitigating any environmental impacts.”

Coast Guard personnel in St. Thomas received initial notification of this incident, Thursday.  Following the initial report, Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a National Response Center report notifying them of the diesel spill which occurred Oct. 25, 2023, after the facilities’ number 11 tank overflowed and spilled an undetermined amount of diesel into the secondary containment area.

A Coast Guard Federal On-Scene Representative visited the facility, Thursday, and confirmed diesel had escaped from the secondary containment affecting the land outside the containment area. During a Coast Guard follow-up visit to the facility Friday, excessive pooling of diesel was discovered outside the secondary containment.

The circumstances that caused the spill are under investigation.  Further assessments are required to determine the actual amount of diesel spilled into the secondary containment and the amount that was spilled landside.

Reporting a hazardous substance release or oil spill takes only a few minutes. Contact the federal government's centralized reporting center, the National Response Center (NRC), at 1-800-424-8802. The NRC is staffed 24 hours a day by personnel who will ask you to provide as much information about the incident as possible. If reporting directly to the NRC is not possible, reports also can be made to the EPA Regional office or the nearest U.S. Coast Guard unit in the area where the incident occurred. In general, the EPA should be contacted if the incident involves a release to inland areas or inland waters. The Coast Guard should be contacted for releases to coastal waters, ports, and harbors. The EPA or the Coast Guard will relay release and spill reports to the NRC promptly.

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