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EPA orders Limetree Bay refinery in St. Croix halted over health concerns

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said it had ordered an emergency halt to Limetree Bay’s refinery on the island of St. Croix “due to multiple improperly conducted operations that present an imminent risk to public health.”

The Caribbean refinery has suffered repeated setbacks since its private-equity owners began overhauling the long-idled facility two years ago.

The plant had temporarily halted operations earlier this week after an incident in which oil was sprayed on nearby communities for the second time this year, contaminating their drinking water.

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“These repeated incidents at the refinery have been and remain totally unacceptable. Today, I have ordered the refinery to immediately pause all operations until we can be assured that this facility can operate in accordance with laws that protect public health,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

The refiner must arrange for an independent audit of the facility’s operations and submit a plan to the EPA addressing corrective measures, the agency said.

The order will remain in effect for 60 days unless extended through the United States’ filing of a civil action in court.

The EPA cited the Clean Air Act as giving it legal authority to halt the refinery’s operations if it is “substantially endangering public health, welfare, or the environment.”

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Limetree did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chris Reese and Hugh Lawson)

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