Flint Hills, State of Alaska and North Pole to join forces on clean water project

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NORTH POLE, Alaska (KXDF)- Flint Hills Resources Alaska and the State of Alaska announced, in February of this year, that they will be partnering with the City of North Pole to help fund an expansion of the piped public water system in North Pole.
This will provide sulfolane–free drinking water to residents impacted by releases of sulfolane from the former North Pole Refinery.

Julia Laude spoke with those involved about this new agreement.

Clean drinking water: it's something the residents of North Pole haven't had in their water system since 2009.

Sulfolane, from the former Flint Hills North Pole refinery, is an industrial solvent that was used in gasoline production, which was leaked in to the city's ground water.

During this time, residents have been provided with bottled water, tank water, or some residents have used a treatment system for their private well. Now the State of Alaska, Flint Hills and the City of North Pole are doing more to provide clean water for residents.

According to the Director of the Division of Spill Prevention and Response with the Department of Environmental Conservation, Kristin Ryan, this new water agreement is a settlement between the State of Alaska, Flint Hills and the City of North Pole to build a water system for all of the homes that are impacted by the solfolane contaminating plume in the ground water.

Ryan adds that this new agreement doesn't mean cleaning up the current sulfolane, but the solvent will dissipate naturally.

For North Pole Mayor, Bryce Ward, he hopes this gives current and future residents security.

"The main concern that we have with the contamination is the impact in development and the to operating an existing property owners, so the expansion of the utility to the areas effected by sulfolane means that there's some security for those owners that are currently living there, and then also for folks that may be looking at development to that area in the future, that there is a clean source of water," said Ward.

The former owner of the North Pole Refinery, Williams Alaska Petroleum, didn't agree to terms in regards to this new agreement.

Ryan explains what will happen to the company.

"Now that the state of Alaska has settled with Flint Hills Resources, we're on the same team per say as we now pursue Williams in court. A trial is scheduled for May 30th to June 30th in Fairbanks, where we will be pursuing Williams to either do remediation or offset our costs associated with building this water system."

According to Ward, Flint Hills is an active part of this process and will be paying for the majority of expenses, which means there will be no construction fee for residents.

Expansion will begin in 2018 and is expected to be up and running in 2019.