Dec. 6, 2002 – The hydrocarbon substance accidentally released into the air at the Hovensa plant on Thursday was naphtha, according to a release from the refinery.
The substance was identified in Hovensa's testing of water samples collected Thursday afternoon from cisterns in Estate Profit, the release issued on Friday said.
Naphtha "is a blend of hydrocarbons that is a skin irritant and that contains some benzene," it stated. The chemical compound is commonly used as a solvent in dry cleaning.
Hovensa spokesman Alex A. Moorhead said the analysis of the samples conducted in the refinery's Environmental Department laboratory came up "negative for benzene contamination."
However, until further test results are received from the U.S. mainland, he said, Estate Profit residents should "continue using bottled water for drinking and cooking."
Moorhead, Hovensa's vice president for government affairs and community relations, said in the release that the company has sent a portion of the water samples to an independent laboratory on the mainland for further analysis. The lab is certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he said, and he expects the results will be available "sometime over the weekend."
He said the samples were collected by Hovensa Environmental Department personnel on Thursday afternoon "from the cistern of the Community Center and from several homes in Estate Profit downwind of the refinery."
He noted that there was rain Thursday night in Estate Profit. If hydrocarbons from the refinery had been deposited on rooftops in the area, he said, "naphtha that did not evaporate through exposure to the sun yesterday would have been washed into the cisterns."
Therefore, Moorhead said, the company collected additional water samples "from several cisterns" on Friday for analysis in the Hovensa lab. He said the results would be available by Saturday.
Hollis Griffin, head of the Planning and Natural Resources Department's Environmental Enforcement Division, said on Thursday that the discharge occurred around noon due to the malfunction of machinery used in the processing of crude oil. He advised people with allergies and respiratory ailments to avoid the Estate Profit and Clifton Hill areas for the time being.
There was no further information released by the department on Friday concerning the hydrocarbon discharge.
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