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Federal Government Reports On Toxic Releases Into U.S.V.I's Air, Water And Land; Quality of Environment On an Upward Trend

Release Date: 05/13/1999
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(#99081) NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued a report on the releases of toxic chemicals into the U.S. Virgin Island's environment in 1997. The information, which is compiled annually by EPA in a Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), is released to the public to help Americans know more about the chemicals present in their local environment and to ensure that communities are ready to handle emergency situations should they arise.

In the Virgin Islands, toxic releases of the 643 chemicals and chemical categories currently tracked by TRI were down from 1.23 million pounds in 1996, to 1.18 million pounds in 1997. The most dramatic improvement in the Virgin Islands' environment can be seen when the 1997 figures are compared with figures from 1988, the year the TRI program first began. In 1988, companies were required to report releases of only 357 toxic chemicals and chemical categories nearly half of those EPA requires companies to report today. Even so, the 1988 data shows that companies in the Virgin Islands released 2.8 million pounds of those 357 toxic chemicals into the air, soil and water that year over twice the amount reported for twice as many chemicals in 1997.

"The overall decrease in toxic releases to the environment over the past several years is very good news for the U.S. Virgin Islands," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Administrator for Region 2. "This trend demonstrates that our strengthened environmental laws and regulations are having a real effect on the quality-of-life of Virgin Islanders, and that environmental and economic health can be achieved together. The efforts of government agencies, lawmakers and corporations are responsible for this encouraging data, but we owe our greatest debt to the public, which has time and again demanded a cleaner environment, better health for our children and the preservation of our precious natural resources."

As a response to the tragic chemical-release accident in Bhopal, India, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act in 1986, which requires federal, state, and local governments to establish emergency plans in the event of a hazardous spill. A major part of the law requires all industries and companies to file reports to the government about the hazardous substances they emit into the environment, which are then compiled into the Toxic Release Inventory report. Companies that are required to file TRI data range from chemical, metals, plastics and paper manufacturers to petroleum refineries and many others. Starting this summer, other industry sectors including coal mines, hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities and electrical utilities will be subject to TRI reporting.

Only two facilities on the Virgin Islands filed TRI data for 1997: The Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corporation in Kingshill, St. Croix, and the Virgin Islands Rum Ind. Ltd. in Frederiksted, St. Croix. Only the Hess Oil facility, however, reported any releases of toxins into the environment.

The top five chemicals released into the environment by the Hess Oil facility in 1997 were:
ethylene (282,951 lbs./year)
propylene (225,872 lbs/year)
xylene (173,105 lbs./year)
n-hexane (160,993 lbs./year)
toluene (151,527 lbs./year)
These chemicals were most often released into the air.

More complete TRI information for the U.S. Virgin Islands is available online at http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/tri, or by calling the TRI Hotline at 800-424-9346.
Reporters may request a chart of TRI trends and the TRI fact sheet for their state by calling Nina Habib Spencer at (212) 637-3670.