EPA, DPNR still investigating Central High School stink

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ST. CROIX - Even as Central High School students started classes on the St. Croix Educational Complex campus Tuesday afternoon, the investigation into the source of noxious odors on the Central High School campus, about a mile away, continued.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working with the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources and other agencies, continued to try to find the source of the on-again, off-again odor or fumes on the Central High campus that sickened dozens of students on March 18.

The EPA is investigating at DPNR's request.

On Tuesday morning, a DPNR enforcement officer was stationed at the gate to Central, turning people away from the nearly empty parking lot unless they were with the agencies working on the investigation.

The EPA is conducting two types of air-monitoring, using different tools, said EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez.

One type of air-monitoring provides real-time results and is helpful in investigating air emissions, he said. Air sampling, where air is drawn into a canister that has a filter to capture the samples for analysis at a laboratory, also is being done, according to Rodriguez.

"Some of our air samples are already being analyzed at a laboratory, while other air sampling with Summa canisters is ongoing," he said.

In supporting DPNR, "we are also assessing the sewer lines to help determine the potential pathways of gas within the sewer system," Rodriguez said.

At this point, a definite source of the odor has not yet been identified, although there have been elevated readings of hydrogen sulfide, also known as sewer gas, in the sewer lines.

"That's being assessed," Rodriguez said. The sites where air samples are being taken include the school, HOVENSA and DPNR.

EPA has three on-scene coordinators here, along with contractor support, Rodriguez said.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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