In a decisive move, District Court Judge Lewis dismissed Ocean Point Terminals’ (formerly known as Limetree Bay Terminals) plea to interrupt the commencement of a mandated water distribution scheme.
Tracing back to January 2023, residents of St. Croix raised an appeal suggesting the establishment of a new water distribution mechanism. Their concerns stemmed from the potential adverse effects of the 2021 flare event at the refinery, which they believed might have tainted the island’s water reservoirs. In light of the intricacies surrounding the issue, the District Court opted for a two-tiered approach in February: first identifying the need and then chalking out the blueprint of the program.
Following an intensive four-day evidence gathering session in April, the court, in its phase one analysis, concluded a pressing need for a water distribution system. This was especially pertinent for those residents who faced challenges accessing uncontaminated water without compromising other fundamental necessities.
In July 2023, the court conducted yet another series of detailed hearings to scrutinize the operational facets of the program. Based on its phase two findings, the water distribution initiative was formally inaugurated.
Ocean Point Terminals, however, took issue with the court’s decision. On August 7, they signaled their intention to challenge the preliminary directive. A day later, they sought a temporary halt, hoping to freeze the preliminary directive while they pursued their appeal.
In their appeal, Ocean Point largely echoed their prior reservations—most of which the court had already set aside. They highlighted the significant financial burden of potentially shelling out almost $7 million annually on water-related expenses alone. The crux of their argument rested on differentiating themselves from the actual culprits behind the alleged contamination. Ocean Point stressed that just because Limetree Bay Refinery and Limetree Bay Terminals were affiliated, it shouldn’t imply the terminal’s accountability for damages initiated by the refinery.
Furthermore, they expressed concerns that the water scheme could potentially mislead the community into assuming a broad-scale water pollution problem, a claim they believed lacked concrete evidence. In their words, the plaintiffs’ claims were largely “founded on speculation,” and it’s unfair to penalize them based on hypotheticals.
Addressing their concerns, the court reminded Ocean Point that rehashing previously dismissed arguments wouldn’t necessarily pave the way for a favorable appeal verdict. The court also touched upon Ocean Point’s anxieties over irreversible reputational fallout from overseeing the water project. However, the court highlighted that the company’s image might already have suffered due to existing documents connecting them with the purported water quality issues.
Factoring in all the arguments, Judge Lewis remained steadfast in his commitment to the well-being of the community. He underscored the paramount importance of maintaining uninterrupted access to potable water for St. Croix’s residents and, consequently, ruled against Ocean Point’s appeal.