The federal Environmental Protection Agency is gathering information about recent incidents at the Limetree Bay facility on St. Croix, the agency announced on Tuesday in a news release.
The EPA is requesting information from Limetree Bay after a series of incidents at the refinery, beginning Friday, that released a nose-wrinkling stench into the air over western St. Croix. The early news indicated the gas released was hydrogen sulfide, which the company announced on Monday was the less dangerous but equally malodorous sulfur dioxide.
In conjunction with the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the V.I. Department of Health, the EPA is seeking to determine the level of the exceedances, the composition of the releases, duration and cause of the incidents, corrective actions taken or to be taken, potential public health impacts and how to best prevent future incidents.
As part of this effort, the EPA said it plans to send experts and staff to the facility as soon as this week to conduct a joint investigation. EPA has also already planned additional sets of inspections at the facility over the course of the coming months to focus on compliance with various environmental statutes.
The agency said in its news release that it “cannot at this time share specifics about, or dates of, these inspections” to protect the integrity of the enforcement process.
The news release said the EPA expects Limetree Bay to provide information about the various recent incidents in a timely manner, as required by the agency’s information request. The facility has asked for an extension of time to provide the information sought by EPA’s April 1 information request, and EPA said it has allowed a limited extension of time to respond.
Part of what EPA will learn during its site visits, inspections and through its information requests, is the operational status of the facility. It is EPA’s objective to ensure that the facility operates in compliance with all applicable legal requirements without jeopardizing public health and the environment by its operations.
The incidents have been distressing and, in some cases, caused members of the community to become ill. EPA said it will work in coordination with the U.S. Virgin Islands government to determine the best way to provide regular information to the community and an expedited way for members of the community to communicate their concerns to the EPA and local government authorities.
The Virgin Islands Department of Health encouraged any resident to contact their health care provider if they experience symptoms such as nausea, headaches or respiratory problems and has provided two telephone numbers for residents to call with questions or concerns, 340-773-1082 ext. 2221 or 340-718-1311 ext. 3709.