The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered to cease the Limetree Bay refinery on St Croix, US Virgin Islands, after breakdowns.

The order to Limetree Bay Terminals and Limetree Bay Refining to halt the refinery operations for at least 60 days was passed on grounds of ‘multiple improperly conducted operations’.

EPA said these actions could pose ‘imminent risk to public health’.

The move comes in response to the release of oil droplets from Flare Unit #8 at the refinery on 12 May due to a glitch.

Subsequently, Limetree suspended operations at the refinery.

The flaring incident had affected the Enfield Green community, as well as some industrial sites, the firm said.

EPA noted that the incident also led to exceedance of the sulphur dioxide (SO₂) emission limit, posing risk to the health of nearby communities.

The latest EPA order requires Limetree to halt all refining operations at the facility and arrange for an independent audit of operations.

Limetree is also required to submit a plan to the EPA that addresses the recommendations made by the auditors for corrective measures at the refinery.

US EPA administrator Michael S Regan said: “These repeated incidents at the refinery have been and remain totally unacceptable. Today, I have ordered the refinery to immediately pause all operations until we can be assured that this facility can operate in accordance with laws that protect public health.

“This already overburdened community has suffered through at least four recent incidents that have occurred at the facility, and each had an immediate and significant health impact on people and their property.”

In this year, the refinery suffered multiple accidents, which resulted in significant air pollutant and oil releases.