Chevron Products Refinery in Hawaii: A Successful, Streamlined Cleanup
In the span of only three years, Chevron Products Refinery in Hawaii completed investigation and began implementing remediation-voluntarily. What resulted was a significant cost savings for Chevron, a more thorough and broad cleanup of a large hydrocarbon plume, full public involvement, and the preservation of an important nesting site for an endangered Hawaiian shorebird. Activities at the Chevron Products Refinery in Kapolei, Hawaii demonstrate how a seeming conflict of interest was transformed into a mutually beneficial partnership among Chevron, the state of Hawaii and USEPA.
Chevron Products Refinery, a facility on the RCRA Cleanup Baseline, began operating in 1960 supplying products to private and commercial sectors in the Hawaiian Islands. More than 20 million barrels of petroleum products are processed at the refinery each year. Located next to a beach on Oahu and 200 feet from the Pacific Ocean, there were significant potential environmental impacts. Additionally, the refinery was an important nesting site for an endangered shorebird species, the Hawaiian stilt.
While there was clear authority for USEPA to require cleanup at the one permitted unit on the site, there was less authority to require Chevron to address the cleanup of the larger hydrocarbon plume. To make matters worse, the relationship between EPA and the facility had deteriorated in a confrontation over other compliance and enforcement issues.
The Mutually Beneficial Solution
Instead of fighting a long legal battle, Chevron, the state of Hawaii and USEPA reached an agreement in 1995 to address contamination through voluntary actions. A critical decision was made to treat the entire plume as one system, rather than to address only the regulated portion, or in a piece-meal fashion. As part of this agreement, the site investigation goals were to characterize the contamination, define the extent of the groundwater plume, and identify and mitigate the risks to people and the environment.
The results of these efforts were remarkable, including the following:
- Contamination was prevented from reaching the Pacific Ocean.
- The endangered Hawaiian stilt nesting grounds were protected from harm.
- Over 75,000 gallons of floating product has been recovered from the subsurface and recycled through the refinery.
- The refinery began upgrading storage tanks to prevent future leaks.
- The final remedy is in place (accomplished in three years)and is currently ongoing.
- Chevron estimates it saved between $7 and $10 million dollars by quickly implementing a remedial system, addressing all its contamination, and reducing legal and consultant fees.
- Chevron established a higher degree of trust with the public by involving them in the cleanup process and by voluntarily cleaning up more contamination faster.
The Success Story
Chevron Products Refinery, the state of Hawaii, and the USEPA continue to work in partnership to clean up the petroleum plume. The process by which remedial work was completed at Chevron Products Refinery provides a model for other high-priority facilities and regulators to work together to ensure that the public health and environment are protected. As stated by the vice president of Chevron Products Company in San Francisco, "Voluntary remediation is a good idea when we can come to reasonable agreements with regulators. It helps build good relationships with the community and regulators. And better relationships are to everyone's benefit."