State Reaches Agreement with Flint Hills Resources Alaska
on North Pole Public Water System Expansion
Read more below
The discovery of sulfolane in drinking water wells in 2009 near the North Pole Refinery, about 15 miles east of Fairbanks, led to an extensive groundwater investigation. Flint Hills Resources Alaska, owner of the refinery, responded quickly by providing affected residents with alternate drinking water. Sulfolane is an emerging contaminant, and the possible effects of long-term exposure to this chemical through drinking water are not yet fully understood. The groundwater plume is approximately 2 miles wide, 3.5 miles long and over 300 feet deep, making it one of the largest in the state, with many private properties impacted. For additional details, see Frequently Asked Questions and Project History. Currently:
- Alternative water supplies: approximately 1,500 people receive alternate drinking water supplies from Flint Hills, under the Alternative Water Solutions Management Plan.
- Onsite Cleanup Plan implementation: the onsite groundwater extraction and treatment system was upgraded and is operating as planned; onsite soil excavation and disposal was completed in summer 2015; and quarterly groundwater monitoring continues on the refinery property. More on Onsite Cleanup.
- Offsite quarterly groundwater monitoring continues: periodic sampling tracks migration of the sulfolane plume off the refinery property. More on plume monitoring.
- The National Toxicology Program (NTP) continues toxicology studies: this important research on sulfolane will address questions regarding long-term exposure to the solvent. 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 describes the sulfolane cleanup level situation.
August 2015 newsletter (1.5MB)
- (Updated March 21, 2017) Flint Hills Resources Alaska and the State of Alaska announced on February 7th that they will be funding a significant expansion of the piped public water system to provide sulfolane-free drinking water to residents impacted by releases of sulfolane from the former North Pole Refinery. The State of Alaska is contributing to the settlement because it was previously an owner of the property during the time of some of these releases.
Construction of the water system expansion, to be owned and operated by the City of North Pole, is currently anticipated to begin in 2018, with the new water system becoming operational in 2019. The planned expansion will extend city water to all properties impacted by the sulfolane plume, which includes properties within the City of North Pole and properties outside the city limits, as well as to the Garden, Riddle Estates, Poodle, Pine Stream, Steelhead and Sorores subdivisions. The agreement covers the cost of installing service lines, hookup to the system, and transition to the new public water supply for homes currently on an alternative water system. Alternate drinking water will continue to be provided by Flint Hills until the new water system is fully operational. DEC will continue regulatory oversight and monitoring of the groundwater plume.
On February 25 an estimated 100 people attended the Community Open House, held at the North Pole Plaza Mall. Attendees from the area actively engaged in one-on-one conversations with representatives from the three parties to the agreement - DEC, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), the City of North Pole and Flint Hills Resources Alaska - asking many questions and seeking information regarding specifics of the project. DEC continues to solicit feedback from community members through March 27th, 2017.
DEC is accepting community feedback on the piped water expansion project, the Revised Onsite Cleanup Plan, and the Offsite Potable Water Plan. Please provide your feedback to Jim Fish, Project Manager, ,firstname.lastname@example.org, by 5 p.m. March 27, 2017.
Fact sheets offered at the Open House are included below: