In the wake of a series of Hovensa mishaps—including oil sprays, a large flare-off of oil last fall and a fire last week—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun a three-month study of air pollution near the Hovensa refinery, according to the EPA.
EPA has installed air-monitoring equipment at three locations where air pollution from Hovensa and other facilities would be expected to have the biggest impact. It will measure levels of a class of air pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which have serious health effects, according to an EPA statement.
Many VOCs are known to cause cancer in animals. Some cause cancer in people, while other VOCs have no known health effects. Like other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors, including the level and length of exposure.
“The air monitoring study in the community near the Hovensa refinery is another important component of EPA’s ongoing evaluation of toxic air pollutants that could be affecting the health of people who live in the area,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator, in the agency’s statement.
“EPA is examining all aspects of Hovensa’s operations to ensure that people’s health is protected and that the facility is in compliance with all environmental laws,” she added.
The community air toxic monitoring study will provide information to EPA and local residents about whether air quality near the monitoring locations poses health concerns. The information will help to guide the strategies for reducing local air pollution. EPA says it will use the information gathered in the study to help determine next steps, which could include additional monitoring or enforcement actions where appropriate. The goal is to protect public health by preventing exposure to pollution from the facility.
The VOC air monitors are at St. Croix Central High School, Bethlehem Village, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s facilities at Mannings Bay in western St. Croix. Particulate matter, such as soot, is monitored by the V.I. Department of Natural Resources; and sulfur dioxide from Hovensa is monitored by the refinery, That information will also be reviewed, according to EPA.
Following standard EPA scientific protocols, air quality monitors at the three locations will collect outdoor air samples over three months to provide a representative snapshot. Once complete, all the results will be analyzed to evaluate the potential health risks or concerns related to long-term exposure to these pollutants. The preliminary monitoring data are expected to be made public by late spring and a final report should be completed by the summer.
To learn more about EPA’s activities regarding Hovensa, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/waste/Hovensa/index.html