Hovensa has set up a second drinking-water distribution center at the Original Pentecostal Church across from St. Croix Central High School for residents affected by its latest airborne oil release.
This is in addition to a center established over the weekend at the St. Croix Animal Shelter in Clifton Hill. Water will be available to residents of Clifton Hill and Fredensborg daily at both locations from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The V.I. Health Department advised residents of those neighborhoods not to drink their cistern water in the wake of an incident at 7:30 a.m. Thursday in which a mix of partially refined hydrocarbons were sprayed into the air above St. Croix.
Hovensa has set up a call center at 692-3999 where residents can report oil droplets on their property and can ask questions.
Over the weekend, a Hovensa team inspected and cleaned St. Croix Central High School. After downspouts were disconnected on the roofs of several Central High buildings, crews washed the roofs to remove any residue that may have been deposited by the release, according to refinery officials.
Some time after the Thursday morning incident, a number of students at the St. Croix Central High School reported various illnesses, including runny nose, vomiting, itchy eyes and sore throat, and as a precautionary measure, school administrator evacuated the campus and students were dismissed early.
More than 30 students were admitted to Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital, treated and released, according to a statement from the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency. Inspection teams found spots of oil on the roof and downspouts of Central High. The school closed again Friday after some students said they smelled gas.
Hovensa personnel also visited and disconnected the downspouts of about 167 homes in Clifton Hill over the weekend. Teams are continuing to disconnect downspouts and look for oil droplets on houses and land in Clifton Hill and Fredensborg.
“We are taking all possible steps to put this right in the community and prevent such an incident from recurring,” said Hovensa’s new acting Chief Executive Officer John George in a statement.
Crews will begin washing roofs that show signs of oil on Monday afternoon, according to the refinery. Cistern water will be collected and tested in the same fashion as done after similar releases in September.
Representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the V.I. departments of Health and Planning and Natural Resources will accompany Hovensa teams as they take samples and testing will be done by an independent lab, refinery officials say.