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HomeNewsArchivesLatest Hovensa Gas Leak Prompts Meeting With VITEMA

Latest Hovensa Gas Leak Prompts Meeting With VITEMA

Hovensa’s efforts to assure St. Croix residents that safety is improving at the refinery took another step backward Thursday morning when one of Hovensa’s sulfur recovery units was shut down after workers discovered a gas leak containing hydrogen sulfide.

According to Hovensa officials, the refinery sounded its emergency alarm around 10:40 a.m., when the leak was discovered. Hovensa then dispatched its own emergency responders, who closed the unit’s inlet valve and sprayed water on the escaping gas to absorb and contain it, refinery officials said in a statement. According to Hovensa, no one was injured.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and V.I. Planning and Natural Resources Department conducted independent air quality testing in neighborhoods surrounding Hovensa, according to a statement from the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency. U.S. Coast Guard teams have been supporting EPA’s monitoring efforts in the territory since a release on Dec. 9 and two U.S. Coast Guard strike teams helped perform the testing.

Initial EPA and DPNR reports indicate surrounding neighborhoods were not affected, according to VITEMA.

The neighborhoods surrounding the refinery have been plagued with a series of gas and oil releases from the refinery in recent months. According to the V.I. Department of Health, on Sept. 17, 2010 and Oct. 6, there were releases of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, which produces a rotten egg smell.
Additionally, Hovensa has acknowledged inadvertently releasing partially refined oil into the air above St. Croix on Sept. 19, Sept. 30 and the aforementioned incident on Dec. 9.

VITEMA acting Director Elton Lewis and acting DPNR Commissioner Carmelo Rivera met Thursday afternoon with Hovensa’s acting Chief Executive Officer John George and the refinery’s directors for health and safety, and the environment, according to the VITEMA statement.

The group purportedly discussed measures being taken by Hovensa to address the ever-more-frequent mishaps and the refinery’s efforts to ensure its air quality monitoring is done according to proper standards.

Gov. John deJongh Jr. has tasked VITEMA with assisting Hovensa in developing “a more robust notification system in the event of a release,” and VITEMA officials will meet with Hovensa counterparts to finalize a formal process of notification, according to the agency.

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