A trial in the lawsuit between Flint Hills Resources and a previous owner of the North Pole refinery is scheduled to begin Monday.
The trial is another in a long series of legal disputes regarding groundwater pollution in North Pole. In 2009, sulfolane, a man-made chemical compound used in gasoline production and petroleum refining, was detected in drinking water wells near the North Pole Refinery.
Flint Hills bought the refinery in 2004. The discovery of the spill, which began when the refinery was still under the ownership of Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc., resulted in the lawsuit between Williams and Flint Hills.
Flint Hills Resources announced it would close down refinery operations in North Pole in 2014, citing the cost of managing spill cleanup, as well as difficult refining market conditions. The city of North Pole has been engaged in efforts to expand water services, with city services working to install water mains in the final of four zones this past summer.
Flint Hills Resources has been pursuing claims against Williams Alaska Petroleum since 2010, according to Jake Reint, managing director of public affairs for Flint Hills Resources. The state of Alaska brought forward claims in 2014.
“The state of Alaska and Flint Hills Resources, Alaska have brought claims against Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc. and the Williams Companies Inc. for damages relating to historical spills and releases of various contaminants during Williams’ ownership and operation of the former North Pole Refinery,” Reint wrote in an email to the Daily News-Miner.
“Those historical spills and releases have impacted the greater city of North Pole community,” he wrote. “The city of North Pole also has claims against Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc., but that case will be tried to a jury at some later date.”
Flint Hills Resources sold the North Pole refinery terminal to Marathon Petroleum earlier this year, according to Reint. A Marathon sign has since gone up at the site in North Pole.
Opening statements and witness testimony are anticipated for Monday.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/FDNMlocal