EPA report: Toxins released in the territory have doubled


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ST. CROIX - An annual report by federal regulators on the amount of certain toxic chemicals released by industrial facilities in 2011 showed that releases had increased in the territory, more than doubling from the previous year, from 760,000 pounds in 2010 to more than 1.8 million pounds in 2011.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which made public the Toxics Release Inventory report for 2011 last week, said in a prepared statement that most of that increase was from HOVENSA and attributed it to two factors: new requirements to report two chemicals and a more accurate method used by HOVENSA to calculate emissions.

The EPA had asked refineries to report information about two chemicals they were not required to report before, said Nora Lopez, the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory Coordinator for Region 2, which includes the Virgin Islands.

"These other chemicals for which they reported, it was based on an information collection request that was sent to a lot of petroleum refineries," Lopez said. Those chemicals were hydrogen cyanide and 2-Nitropropane, Lopez said.

The EPA's Toxics Release Inventory report covers data from 2011, the most recent available. In the territory, four facilities are required to report their releases to land, air and water of the chemicals in the inventory: HOVENSA, the V.I. Water and Power Authority facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix, and the St. Thomas Bulk Terminal, which is next to King Airport, Lopez said.

In total, those facilities reported releases of more than 1.81 million pounds, with more than 98 percent of the releases coming from HOVENSA, according to information from the report.

Since the year for which the latest data was collected, HOVENSA has stopped refining oil, and officials anticipate that the 2012 report, which will be released next year, will show dramatic reductions in HOVENSA releases.

"You will see a big decrease in emissions because there's no more refining occurring at that facility," Lopez said.

To fall under the reporting requirements for the Toxic Releases Inventory, facilities have to meet certain criteria, including having more than 10 employees, being part of a regulated sector, and using more than a threshold amount of any of the more than 650 chemicals that are part of the report, Lopez said.

"This report informs the public about the types of pollution in our communities and where they come from," Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator, said in the EPA statement. "It is an invaluable tool that shows the volume of pollutants that were coming from the HOVENSA facility when it was operating as a refinery."

Since 1988, Toxic Release Inventory data has been provided to the public annually to help people learn more about the chemicals present in their local environment and gauge environmental trends over time, according to the EPA.

The inventory contains the most comprehensive information about chemicals released into the environment reported annually by certain industries and federal facilities, according to the statement. Most of the facilities have permits issued under federal regulations that set limits on the amount of chemicals that they are allowed to release into the air, water or land.

Facilities must report their toxic chemical releases for the previous year by July 1 of the next year, Lopez said.

This year, EPA made a preliminary set of data for 2011 available on July 31. Nationally, more than 20,000 facilities reported on approximately 682 chemicals and chemical categories for calendar year 2011.

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

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