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North Pole Refinery Project Home

Updated: March 6, 2018

Piped Water System Expansion

The City of North Pole is expanding its piped water system to provide drinking water to residents impacted by sulfolane-contaminated groundwater. Stantec, an international engineering firm with a local office in Fairbanks, was contracted in 2017 to design the piped water system expansion and to manage aspects of the project. In January 2018, the City hired Exclusive Paving to construct the main water lines, scheduled to occur in two phases in 2018 and 2019, with land clearing beginning in February 2018. Construction of individual property water hookups and connections to the mains are scheduled to start in 2019. Construction details and scheduling are the purview of the City and Exclusive Paving. Prior to beginning construction in neighborhoods, Exclusive Paving will notify local residents and businesses.

DEC continues regulatory oversight of activities on and off the former refinery property, including continued monitoring to track expansion of the offsite sulfolane groundwater plume. Piped water is the safest alternative water supply, and DEC and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services recommend its use.


In 2009, sulfolane was detected in drinking water wells near the North Pole Refinery, about 15 miles east of Fairbanks. Under DEC oversight, property owner Flint Hills Resources Alaska (FHRA) responded quickly by providing affected residents and businesses with alternative drinking water and initiating an extensive characterization effort. The possible effects of long-term exposure to sulfolane through drinking water are not yet fully understood. The sulfolane groundwater plume is currently approximately 2 miles wide, 3.5 miles long and over 300 feet deep, and continuing to migrate to the north-northwest.

The current status of the sulfolane project is summarized below:

Alternative water supplies
While the piped water system is under construction, alternative water will continue to be provided to affected properties. Approximately 1,500 people receive alternative water.
While the piped water system is under construction, groundwater monitoring will continue throughout the construction process and beyond to track migration of the sulfolane plume.
The National Toxicology Program (NTP) continues toxicology studies
This important research on sulfolane will address questions regarding long-term exposure to the solvent. See more on the NTP studies.
Cleanup Level Review
Currently there is no cleanup level for sulfolane. The Spill Prevention and Response Division (SPAR) is continuing to review an appropriate cleanup level while waiting for information from research being conducted by the National Toxicology Program.
The August 2015 newsletter (PDF) describes the sulfolane cleanup level situation.

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