Officials from an agency of the federal Centers for Disease Control will be in the territory this week to address parents of Joseph E. Sibilly Elementary School students on St. Thomas and residents of the Estate Profit, Clifton Hill and Harvey communities on St. Croix.
The officials of the Agency of Toxic Substance and Disease Registry will first attend a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1, at Sibilly school, where unacceptable levels of volatile organic chemicals were found in the drinking water last spring.
A release from Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds said, "The function of the ATSDR is to prevent adverse health effects on the public. They assess the possible impact of exposure to hazardous substances and maintain registries for long-term follow-up. Thus, the involvement of ASTDR is a valuable resource for all of us who seek answers about the water contamination to which the Sibilly students, staff and faculty have been exposed."
In fact, it is unknown how long the school's population was exposed to the contaminants. The first irregular report came from the water-testing company in December 1998, but was dismissed as being a contaminated sample. The next test was taken in April and was irregular. A follow-up test was conducted in June that also indicated contaminants in the water.
It wasn't until the story was leaked to the press in August, as school was about to begin, that the results of the tests became known.
A second meeting with the ASTDR officials will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, at the Proyecto Sal Building in Estate Profit on St. Croix . A press release from Delegate Donna Christian-Christiansen's office did not indicate the specific concerns of residents in that area. However, the neighborhoods being addressed lie in the shadow of St. Croix's two biggest chemical processing plants, Hovensa, the huge oil refinery, and St. Croix Alumina, the company that transforms bauxite into alumina.
After Hurricane Georges in September 1998 , the orange dust, which is a by-product of the chemical processing of bauxite, was carried on the winds of the storm and left covering every flat spot in the area, including roofs and the interior of homes.
Christiansen's release said the officials would "entertain questions and concerns on health issues related to environmental contamination issues" in the St. Croix neighborhoods.