While the shutdown of Hovensa’s refining facilities in early 2012 was bad for the economy, it was good news for the environment.
“In 2013 the facility reported that in February 2012, Hovensa idled all of its refining process units. Hovensa continued to operate as a Terminal Storage facility,” EPA spokesman Rachel Deitz said.
All companies and agencies that report their toxics releases must file their previous year’s data by July 1 of the following year so the 2013 report covers information for 2012.
The annual Toxics Release Inventory data issued Wednesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows just how much impact Hovensa had on the environment.
It indicates a dramatic drop in the amount of toxins that were released between the 2012 report and 2013 report. In their 2013 filings, Hovensa released a total of 17,859 pounds of toxins, which accounted for 81 percent of the toxic releases into the air in the territory.
The number in the 2012 filing stood at 317,383 pounds, which was down from a whopping 1,795 million pounds in the 2011 report. Near the end of 2010, Hovensa experienced several problems with its plant, which presumably contributed to the large amount of toxic releases.
The territory’s total in the 2013 report stood at 22,029 pounds, down from 321,688 in the 2012 report. Of the 22,029 figure listed for the 2013 report, 60 pounds went into the ground, 116 pounds were disposed of off site and the rest went into the air.
The EPA report generates numerous charts and graphs. While the 2013 report total numbers agree, there was a slight difference in the total number of pounds in the 2012 report. The report that breaks down where the toxic releases went lists 318,674 pounds in 2012 rather than the 321,688 pounds in the report that lists the four entities that caused the toxic releases.
The 318,674 pounds breaks down to 228,109 pounds into the air, 58,246 pounds into the water and 20 pounds into the land. A total of 31,699 pounds were disposed of off site.
The territory has four facilities that must report its toxic releases. In addition to Hovensa, the St. Thomas bulk terminal and V.I. Water and Power Authority facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix report their releases, but their numbers are far lower than Hovensa.
In the 2013 report, the St. Thomas Bulk terminal released 3,239 pounds of toxins. This was similar to the 3,243 pounds indicated in the 2012 report.
The WAPA facility on St. Thomas released 555 pounds in the 2013 report, down a tad from 608 in the 2012 report. The WAPA St. Croix plant released 376 pounds, down from 454 in the 2012 report.
The total number of chemicals listed dropped sharply over 2012, which can be attributed to the end of refining at Hovensa. In the 2013 report, the total number stood at 13 but hit 37 in 2012. Toluene topped the list in the 2013 report at 6,873 pounds. In the 2012 report, the number stood at 18,553.
However, in the 2012 report, hydrogen cyanide was the most prevalent chemical at 85,753 pounds. It wasn’t on the list in 2013.
The Virgin Islands is near the bottom of the list when it comes to toxic releases per square mile, the EPA indicated when it released the 2013 figures for the entire country on Wednesday. It ranked 53 out of 56 states and territories with only Washington, D.C., Guam and the Northern Marianas having fewer releases per square mile.
The EPA said that across the nation, most of the toxic chemical waste managed at industrial facilities was not released into the environment. The report shows that approximately 22 billion pounds — or 84 percent — of the 26 billion pounds of toxic chemical waste were instead managed through the use of preferred practices such as recycling.
Of the 4 billion pounds that were disposed of or otherwise released to the environment, 66 percent went to land, 19 percent to air, 5 percent to water and 10 percent was transferred to other facilities.
From 2012 to 2013, the amount of toxic chemicals managed as waste by the nation’s industrial facilities increased by 4 percent. This increase includes the amount of chemicals recycled, treated and burned for energy recovery, as well as the amount disposed of or otherwise released into the environment. In the Toxic Release Inventory, a "release" generally refers to a chemical that is emitted 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.
"We all have a right to know what toxic chemicals are being used and released into our environment, and what steps companies are taking to reduce their releases to the environment or, better yet, prevent waste from being generated in the first place,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “The TRI Program tracks this information and makes it accessible to citizens and communities. And I’m pleased to see that TRI data shows such a commitment to reductions and pollution prevention on the part of many industrial facilities.
The data is submitted annually to the EPA, states and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities and commercial hazardous waste.
To access the 2013 TRI National Analysis report, including long-term trends and localized analyses, visit www.epa.gov/tri/nationalanalysis.