Air not toxic, says report in US Virgin Islands
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues a final report of air toxics study in St. Croix.
ST. CROIX, US Virgin Islands, Monday August 22, 2011 – A four-month study of air pollution near the HOVENSA oil refinery and other sources of air pollution near the facility has found that the air is not toxic as people living in the surrounding communities had feared.
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study, which was undertaken in response to community concerns about the health impacts of releases of chemicals into the air, found that concentrations of specific air toxics measured at the three locations were below the levels of concern associated with health problems from either short- or long-term exposure to pollutants.
The Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources, on behalf of EPA, installed air monitoring equipment at three locations where the biggest impacts of air pollution from HOVENSA and other facilities would be expected – Central High School RFD#2 in Kingshill which had been evacuated during recent air pollution events; Bethlehem Village; and the Federal Aviation Administration’s facilities at Mannings Bay in Western St. Croix.
The EPA, together with representatives of the Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources, will present the study’s findings in greater detail to the St. Croix community tomorrow.
“Improving air quality for the people of St. Croix is a priority for EPA,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator.
“The communities near these industrial facilities face health and environmental challenges from air pollution. That’s why we conducted this study and why we have stepped up our monitoring, permitting and enforcement to protect people’s health. Together with the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, we will use the information gathered in the study to help determine future actions.”
The air monitoring began in February 2011 and concluded in June 2011. The air study was designed to establish the exposure of the population over a long-term period of time consistent with what EPA already knows about health impacts.
The study measured 60 different compounds, primarily measuring levels of air pollutants known as volatile organic compounds. EPA focused on volatile organic compounds because these are associated with pollution from refineries. Many volatile organic compounds are known or suspected to cause cancer. The extent and nature of the health impact depends on many factors, including the level and length of exposure.