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EPA Begins Study of Air Pollution Near HOVENSA Oil Refinery in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

Release Date: 02/15/2011
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, 212-637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(St. Croix, USVI) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun a three-month study of air pollution from the HOVENSA oil refinery and other sources of air pollution near the facility in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. HOVENSA is the second largest oil refinery in the United States. EPA has installed air monitoring equipment at three locations where the biggest impacts of air pollution from HOVENSA and other facilities would be expected. The Agency will measure levels of a class of air pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which have serious health effects.

Many VOCs are known to cause cancer in animals. Some cause cancer in people, while other VOCs have no known health effects. Like other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors, including the level and length of exposure.

“The air monitoring study in the community near the HOVENSA refinery is another important component of EPA’s ongoing evaluation of toxic air pollutants that could be affecting the health of people who live in the area,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “EPA is examining all aspects of HOVENSA’s operations to ensure that people’s health is protected and that the facility is in compliance with all environmental laws.”

The community air toxic monitoring study will provide information to EPA and local residents on whether air quality near the monitoring locations poses health concerns and to guide the strategies for reducing local air pollution. EPA will use the information gathered in the study to help determine next steps, which could include additional monitoring or enforcement actions where appropriate. The goal is to protect public health by preventing exposure to pollution from the facility.

EPA undertook the air monitoring study in response to community concerns about the health impacts of releases of chemicals into the air from the HOVENSA facility and other nearby sources of air pollution. EPA selected three representative areas likely to be impacted by air pollution from HOVENSA’s oil refinery and other facilities. The VOC air monitors are located at Central High School RFD #2 Kingshill, Bethlehem Village, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s facilities at Mannings Bay in western St. Croix. Particulate matter on the island is monitored by the Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources and sulfur dioxide from HOVENSA is monitored by the refinery, and that information will also be reviewed.

Following standard EPA scientific protocols, air quality monitors at the three locations will collect outdoor air samples over three months to provide a representative snapshot of air quality in the community. Once monitoring is complete, the results from all of the locations will be analyzed to evaluate the potential for health concerns related to long-term exposure to these pollutants. The preliminary monitoring data is expected to be made public by late spring and a final report should be completed by the summer.

To learn more about EPA’s activities related to HOVENSA, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/waste/hovensa/index.html.

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and visit our Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/eparegion2.

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