Sept. 16, 2004 St. Croix residents should check their cisterns, avoid swimming at island beaches, and use extreme caution driving and walking through flooded street areas of the island, according to Dean Plaskett, commissioner of the Planning and Natural Resources Department.
Plaskett also addressed the issue of a "strong petrochemical odor" reported in neighborhoods near Hovensa. He indicated the refinery has investigated the concerns.
"Hovensa has been in the process of restarting the coker which is believed to have caused the odor," Plaskett said in a press release.
Hovensa Vice President Alex Moorhead confirmed that the odor was the result of incomplete burning in a refinery-flare of a mixture of hydrocarbon vapors and steam which were being generated by the injection of steam into the coker in preparation to restart it.
The coker was shut down by a loss of power Tuesday evening during the passage of Tropical Storm Jeanne, Moorhead said.
Tests established that there were hydrocarbons and Mercaptans in the air, but both of these substances were at a concentration well below the level set by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration as harmful to human health, he said.
Plaskett also indicated that manhole covers – hidden by flood waters – are being pushed off their bases both in the Gallows Bay area and at the base of King Cross Street in Christiansted.
"This presents a serious hazard to drivers and pedestrians as the open manholes are not visible through the flooding on the streets," Plaskett said.
The problem is a result of "hydraulic overloading" at the LBJ Pump Station and the Figtree Pump Station near Hovensa along with the lower lying manholes in the Christiansted area, he said.
DPNR is adding additional pumping to the LBJ Pump Station which will cause sewage to be pumped over Long Reef in Christiansted, an effort to lower the water level in the sewer system in the Christiansted area below the manhole overflow levels, he said.
The Lagoon Street Pump Station in Frederiksted is operating on back-up systems and is not currently bypassing, he said.
DPNR is advising the public to refrain from using the waters surrounding St. Croix, and particularly in Christiansted from the Wharf to Golden Rock, for fishing or swimming until the problems are corrected, he said.
DPNR is in the process of evaluating specific beach water quality and plans to release an update on beach water quality at popular swimming beaches on Friday, he said. These beaches include Rainbow Beach, Frederiksted Beach, Dorsch Beach, Halfpenny Beach, Divi Beach, Cramer's Park Beach, Duggan's Reef, Shoy's Beach, Buccaneer Beach, Little Bay Beach, Altona Lagoon Beach, Condo Row (Mill Harbor) Beach, Cormorant Beach, Columbus Landing Beach, Gentle Winds Beach, Cane Bay Beach and Carambola Beach.
Storm-water runoff may contain an increased concentration of bacteria, contaminants or pollutants harmful to human health, so people should avoid areas of storm-water runoff, including guts, puddles and drainage basins, he said.
Finally, Plaskett addressed the issue of cistern water quality, which may be impacted as a result of the storm.
Although water disinfection may not be necessary, the following techniques should be used for cistern disinfection: Add six fluid ounces of liquid bleach containing 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite (i.e. Clorox) for every 1,000 gallons of water in the cistern. A period of at least six hours per 10,000 gallons should be allowed for the chlorine to react with the water before the water is consumed.
Smaller quantities of water may be used for drinking if boiled for at least four to six minutes or sterilized with eight to ten drops of liquid bleach, he said.
For additional information regarding water quality, drinking water or air pollution concerns call the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency at 773-2244 or the Environmental Protection Division at 773-1082.
(See: "Cancellations, Postponements Due to Rain, Flooding" for an up-to-the minute listing of closings, cancellations, postponements and other weather related developments.)
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