Health worry prompts air pollution study in St Croix

ST CROIX, US Virgin Islands, Wednesday February 16, 2011 – 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. 

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. 

The Agency has installed air monitoring equipment at three locations where the biggest impacts of air pollution from HOVENSA and other facilities would be expected. It 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. 

Following standard EPA scientific protocols, air quality monitors at the those 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.

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