Air toxins near Hovensa refinery found below danger levels

Concentrations of air toxins measured at three locations over 4 months near the 500,000-b/d Hovensa refinery at St. Croix, VI, did not reach levels associated with health problems from long-term or short-term exposure, the US Environmental Protection Agency said on Aug. 18.

EPA said the Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources installed monitoring equipment, on the agency’s behalf, at three locations where the biggest impacts of pollution from the refinery and other facilities were expected. Air monitoring began in February and concluded in June, according to EPA.

The study measured 60 different compounds, primarily volatile organic compounds (VOCs), it indicated. Two of the key VOCs, benzene and 1,3-butadiene, both measured below levels for health concern, EPA said. Levels of carbon disulfide, which is associated with strong odors, were highest at the Bethlehem Village monitoring site, which is near a rum distillery, but were not believed to pose a significant public health risk, EPA said.

EPA and representatives of VIDNR planned to discuss the findings at two public hearings on Aug. 23. Hovensa is a Hess Corp. subsidiary that took over the refinery’s operation in 1998. It is the Virgin Islands’ largest private employer and provides 2,500 direct and indirect jobs, according to its web site.

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