DPNR testing air quality after foul smell forces closure of Frederiksted Health Center
Published: October 9, 2013
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ST. CROIX - For the second time in less than a week, the Frederiksted Health Center was forced to close its doors after a foul smell compromised the air quality in the facility and surrounding area.
Jason Henry, the clinic spokesman, said Tuesday that because of a recurring foul odor in the town, they were forced to evacuate the build and terminate services for the day just before 10 a.m. Tuesday.
"This decision was made in consideration of the health and safety of the employees and clients," he said. "We had a combined number of 75 to 80 people and got everyone out without any problems."
Henry said following the evacuation he and management staff at the center had been in communication with the Deputy Fire Chief Corey Kent, along with representatives from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the V.I. Waste Management Authority in hopes of finding the source of the odor and getting the situation rectified.
Services at the health center had been also halted on Friday as a result of a similar odor.
DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes, in a release Tuesday afternoon advised the community that her department is "aware of a foul, sewage-like smell permeating throughout the Frederiksted area for the past few days."
She said DPNR's Water Pollution Control Program responded to citizens' complaints and discovered that the cause may be linked to work being done by the Waste Management Authority.
"VIWMA has been conducting maintenance work on the sewage infrastructure in the Frederiksted area. In an effort to pinpoint the source of this stench, we have directed VIWMA to make an assessment of their system and to flush the infrastructure throughout the town while also adding a deodorizing agent during this process," she said.
Waste Management spokeswoman Stella Saunders said that there had been no major issues of sewage bypass when the odor began last week. "This odor began on Friday and we had no issues until a small bypass on Monday near the Fish Market," she said. "The Bay Road pump station cycles every four hours and because of a block, the manhole overflowed, but we got that situation resolved with very minimal impact."
She said the odor that affected the Frederiksted Health Center starts as far east as Estate Whim on Melvin Evans Highway and enveloped the town. A sniff test determined that the odor was not consistent with the Waste Management sewage project, Saunders said.
Waste Management Authority Executive Director May Adams-Cornwall said the agency is not responsible for the foul odor, and determining the odor's cause is not Waste Management's responsibility.
"Because it is more of a propane nature, DPNR, Health and Fire have to conduct that investigation," she said, referring to the V.I. Health Department and the V.I. Fire Service. "We can only investigate when our system is involved, and we have ruled that out. We just had a coincidental issue with whatever is really causing the odor."
Henry said the facility closed on Friday because of a foul smell, but he cannot be sure if it is the same odor again this week. "Friday's smell was more of a propane smell, but today it is really like sewage," he said. "We checked to ensure it was not isolated to our facility only."
He said it is difficult to tell where the smell was coming from, but the health center may have been most affected because of its large air-conditioning unit.
Barnes said her department's Air Pollution Control Unit has also responded to the complaints and conducted site inspections of major facilities and other users of propane in and around the impacted area. As of late Tuesday, no abnormalities had been detected as DPNR continues to monitor the situation and advise the community accordingly, she said.
Masserae Sprauve-Webster, Frederiksted Health Care chief executive officer, said clients who had appointments that had to be cancelled on Tuesday should call the office today for another appointment. She said Dr. Jamila Benn, chief medical officer, and nurse practitioner Julia Winge remained on-site in the event someone showed up at the center in need of emergency medical attention.
Sprauve-Webster said several individuals on-site had to be assessed and treated because of a reaction from the odor, and on Friday one person sought medical attention at Luis Hospital.
To rescheduled appointments, call 772-0260. To contact DPNR, call 773-1082 ext. 2252.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.