Report: Hovensa’s Closure Continues to Help Environment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Toxics Release Inventory shows that Hovensa’s closure has had a positive impact on the environment.

The refinery shut down in early 2012, and the 2013 report based on 2012 data showed a decrease in releases. The 2013 data issued in 2014 indicated an even greater decline.

However, the report issued last week based on 2014 data shows the numbers about doubled from 17,859 pounds of toxins in 2013 to 30,648 pounds. That’s still a huge drop from 317,383 pounds in 2012, the year the refinery closed.

As for the increase in 2014 over 2013, EPA spokesman John Martin said the refinery was storing gasoline, and some of the increase came through releases during storage through tank cracks or valves.

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“There were storing much more gasoline in 2014 as opposed to 2013,” he said.

He said the gasoline came from an outside source and had a much higher benzene, toluene and xylene content that the stored gasoline previously had.

Martin said that additionally, Hovensa was doing cleanup and remediation.

“They were burning sludge at the incinerator,” he said.

Hovensa is one of four facilities across the territory to send Toxics Inventory Release reports to the EPA. All four had a total of 34,700 pounds of releases, 99 percent of which went into the air. The the remaining one percent went onto the land.

The most-released gas released in the air was toluene at 33 percent. N-Hexane followed at 26 percent. Xylene accounted for 16 percent. Benzene, which the EPA report points out is carcinogenic, was 15 percent. Ethylbenzene accounted for four percent and others made up six percent. Of the chemicals released to the land, naphthalene, 1,2,3 tri-methylbenzene and n-hexane were each 33 percent.

EPA rounds numbers so the totals don’t always add up to 100 percent.

St. Thomas Bulk Terminal had 3,320 pounds of toxins released, which was about the same in the 2014 report when the number stood at 3,239 pounds.

V.I. Water and Power Authority’s plant on St. Thomas had 535 pounds of releases, down just a tad from the 2014 report number of 555 pounds.

WAPA’s St. Croix plant came in at 375 pounds, just about the same as the year before. That number stood at 376 pounds.

The report covers 21,783 reporting facilities in 56 states and territories. When it comes to comparing the Virgin Islands to the other states and territories, the territory ranks 53, meaning only three others had fewer toxin releases.

The EPA had good news in its press release announcing the publication of the Toxics Inventory Release report. In 2014, 84 percent of the 25 billion pounds of toxic chemical waste managed at the nation’s industrial facilities was not released into the environment due to the use of preferred waste management practices such as recycling, energy recovery and treatment. The remaining 16 percent was released to the air, water or placed in some type of land disposal. Most of these releases are subject to a variety of regulatory requirements designed to limit human and environmental harm.

The 2014 report data show a six percent decrease in total disposal or other releases to the environment from 2013 to 2014. Notably, air releases from industrial facilities decreased by 4 percent during this period, mainly due to decreases from chemical manufacturing facilities and electric utilities. Air releases have decreased 55 percent since 2003.

"2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the Toxics Release Inventory, a program that has given people unprecedented access to information about what toxic chemicals are being used and released in their neighborhoods, and what companies are doing to prevent pollution,” Ann Dunkin, EPA’s Chief Information Officer, said. “Toxics Release Inventory data continue to be an essential part of informed decision-making by citizens, communities, industries, and local governments.”

Toxics Release Inventory data are submitted annually to EPA, states, and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste. Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, facilities must report their toxic chemical releases for the prior year to EPA by July 1 of each year. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also requires facilities to submit information on pollution prevention and other waste management activities related to Toxics Release Inventory chemicals.

The 2014 Toxics Release Inventory National Analysis, including local data and analyses, can be accessed online at www.epa.gov/trinationalanalysis.

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