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Hovensa Cleanup to Continue Through Holidays

Except for Christmas Day itself, Hovensa refinery teams will continue inspecting and cleaning roofs and cisterns throughout the holidays in Estates Clifton Hill and Fredensborg, where an airborne oil spray wafted Dec. 9, according to the refinery.

The spray lasted about eight minutes and was carried northwest of the refinery by prevailing winds, according to Hovensa. St. Croix Central High School was in the path of the release and students there were sent home early that day after some students complained of runny noses, vomiting, itchy eyes and sore throat. More than 30 individuals sought treatment at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital for symptoms they attributed to the release.

Hovensa set up two water-distribution centers after the Health Department advised residents of the affected neighborhoods not to consume their cistern water until it can be tested. The drinking water distribution centers remain open in Estate Clifton Hill at the St. Croix Animal Shelter and at the Original Pentecostal Church, according to a statement from Hovensa.

Water will continue to be available at these two locations from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily for affected residents. Also, water will continue to be delivered over the holiday weekend to affected residents with special needs.

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The Call Center, established at 692-3999, will be in operation throughout the holiday weekend to receive any concerns of the residents.

As of Dec. 22, Hovensa teams have inspected 257 roofs in Estates Clifton Hill and Fredensborg and found 181 with spots of hydrocarbon on them. Of that total, 128 roofs have been cleaned and the remaining 53 are expected to be cleaned by the day after Christmas.

Car wash vouchers have been distributed to the owners of 158 vehicles and, to date, 61 vehicles have been cleaned. Anyone with an affected vehicle should contact Hovensa before Dec. 31, 2010, when the issuance of car-wash vouchers will be discontinued.

Hovensa has collected cistern water samples from 45 homes in the affected areas, using a sampling protocol the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended and the V.I. Department of Health approved, according to the refinery.

As part of the approved sampling procedure, some cistern samples were “split” with the EPA to double-check Hovensa’s results. Hovensa sent its samples of cistern water to an independent laboratory on the mainland for comparative analysis. The EPA samples were sent to an EPA laboratory for analysis.

A “Unified Command” composed of EPA, V.I. Health Department, V.I. Planning and Natural Resources Department and Hovensa representatives will review all the results of the water analysis received from both of the laboratories.

If, based on this review, Health concludes that the results do not meet the appropriate water standard, all cisterns in the affected areas will be cleaned and refilled with fresh water, according to Hovensa.

Hovensa’s new acting Chief Executive Officer John George said any release of petroleum “is unacceptable to the officers of Hovensa, and we are conducting a thorough review of the recent incidents in order to prevent recurrences. At the same time, the company is working diligently to complete the cleanup as quickly as possible, and we are deeply grateful both for the community’s patience and for the dedicated efforts of the Unified Command and response teams.”

The Dec. 9 incident was the third oil release into the air above St. Croix since Sept. 19, when Hovensa sprayed a vapor cloud of oil into the atmosphere when a small line in a desulfurizing unit burst. The second incident occurred less than two weeks later, on Sept. 30, when a mishap forced the refinery to flare-off a large amount of partially processed oil, some of which also flowed into a low-pressure elevated flare, where it sprayed out and was carried downwind over a number of neighborhoods.

The V.I. Health Department has also documented a couple of less serious incidents where the smelly gas hydrogen sulfide was released. Dangerous in high concentrations, hydrogen sulfide produces a rotten egg smell at lower levels.

EPA issued a Notice of Federal Interest to Hovensa last week in the wake of the latest incident, requiring it to notify EPA of what steps it has taken or will take to prevent another airborne oil release. And DPNR recently announced it will be issuing citations and fines for each of the three recent incidents.

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Except for Christmas Day itself, Hovensa refinery teams will continue inspecting and cleaning roofs and cisterns throughout the holidays in Estates Clifton Hill and Fredensborg, where an airborne oil spray wafted Dec. 9, according to the refinery.

The spray lasted about eight minutes and was carried northwest of the refinery by prevailing winds, according to Hovensa. St. Croix Central High School was in the path of the release and students there were sent home early that day after some students complained of runny noses, vomiting, itchy eyes and sore throat. More than 30 individuals sought treatment at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital for symptoms they attributed to the release.

Hovensa set up two water-distribution centers after the Health Department advised residents of the affected neighborhoods not to consume their cistern water until it can be tested. The drinking water distribution centers remain open in Estate Clifton Hill at the St. Croix Animal Shelter and at the Original Pentecostal Church, according to a statement from Hovensa.

Water will continue to be available at these two locations from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily for affected residents. Also, water will continue to be delivered over the holiday weekend to affected residents with special needs.

The Call Center, established at 692-3999, will be in operation throughout the holiday weekend to receive any concerns of the residents.

As of Dec. 22, Hovensa teams have inspected 257 roofs in Estates Clifton Hill and Fredensborg and found 181 with spots of hydrocarbon on them. Of that total, 128 roofs have been cleaned and the remaining 53 are expected to be cleaned by the day after Christmas.

Car wash vouchers have been distributed to the owners of 158 vehicles and, to date, 61 vehicles have been cleaned. Anyone with an affected vehicle should contact Hovensa before Dec. 31, 2010, when the issuance of car-wash vouchers will be discontinued.

Hovensa has collected cistern water samples from 45 homes in the affected areas, using a sampling protocol the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended and the V.I. Department of Health approved, according to the refinery.

As part of the approved sampling procedure, some cistern samples were “split” with the EPA to double-check Hovensa's results. Hovensa sent its samples of cistern water to an independent laboratory on the mainland for comparative analysis. The EPA samples were sent to an EPA laboratory for analysis.

A “Unified Command” composed of EPA, V.I. Health Department, V.I. Planning and Natural Resources Department and Hovensa representatives will review all the results of the water analysis received from both of the laboratories.

If, based on this review, Health concludes that the results do not meet the appropriate water standard, all cisterns in the affected areas will be cleaned and refilled with fresh water, according to Hovensa.

Hovensa's new acting Chief Executive Officer John George said any release of petroleum “is unacceptable to the officers of Hovensa, and we are conducting a thorough review of the recent incidents in order to prevent recurrences. At the same time, the company is working diligently to complete the cleanup as quickly as possible, and we are deeply grateful both for the community’s patience and for the dedicated efforts of the Unified Command and response teams.”

The Dec. 9 incident was the third oil release into the air above St. Croix since Sept. 19, when Hovensa sprayed a vapor cloud of oil into the atmosphere when a small line in a desulfurizing unit burst. The second incident occurred less than two weeks later, on Sept. 30, when a mishap forced the refinery to flare-off a large amount of partially processed oil, some of which also flowed into a low-pressure elevated flare, where it sprayed out and was carried downwind over a number of neighborhoods.

The V.I. Health Department has also documented a couple of less serious incidents where the smelly gas hydrogen sulfide was released. Dangerous in high concentrations, hydrogen sulfide produces a rotten egg smell at lower levels.

EPA issued a Notice of Federal Interest to Hovensa last week in the wake of the latest incident, requiring it to notify EPA of what steps it has taken or will take to prevent another airborne oil release. And DPNR recently announced it will be issuing citations and fines for each of the three recent incidents.