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North Pole Refinery - Project Home

Updated:July 7, 2014

update on the sulfolane issue
at the North Pole Refinery


On December 20, 2013, Flint Hills Resources Alaska filed a Request for an Adjudicatory Hearing to the Department of Environmental Conservation on Sulfolane.


The DEC Commissioner, Larry Hartig, responded on April 4, 2014, issuing an Order regarding Flint Hills’ adjudicatory hearing request, vacating the SPAR Division’s decision that set the groundwater alternative cleanup level for sulfolane. The Commissioner remanded the cleanup level decision to the Division “for further development of the record and a decision on an approved alternative cleanup level...” The Commissioner is asking the Division to further consider and document the rationale, analysis, and data evaluation that leads to the Division’s selection of a site-specific cleanup level for sulfolane. In his Order, the Commissioner also made clear that he is not taking any position regarding what the final cleanup level should be for sulfolane.


The Division is now undertaking the detailed analysis ordered by the Commissioner. A report containing an in-depth review of all the information and reevaluation of the cleanup level is anticipated to be delivered to the Commissioner before the end of the year. This report will document the Division’s approved cleanup level for sulfolane. 


(For more information, download the complete text of the Apr. 28, 2014, "Update on the Sulfolane Issue at the North Pole Refinery" - PDF 114K)



Related documents are available from the DEC website at these links:



The discovery in late 2009 of sulfolane in drinking water wells near the North Pole Refinery, about 15 miles east of Fairbanks, has led to an extensive investigation of contaminated groundwater. The plume is nearly 2.5 miles wide and 3 miles long, one of the largest in the state. Flint Hills Resources of Alaska, the current refinery owner, responded quickly to offer affected residents an alternate drinking water source. Sulfolane, an emerging contaminant, was at first not officially listed as a hazardous chemical, and its long-term health effects from exposure have not yet been studied. This event has been unprecedented for the Contaminated Sites Program due to the number of properties affected with private drinking water wells and the size of the plume. For an overview in more detail, see Frequently Asked Questions.

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Past newsletters, fact sheets and other information can be found on the Documents page.