St. Croix resident Russell Pate watched a fire from Limetree Bay refinery’s flare light up the night sky Sunday evening. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the refinery to shut down on Friday, it continued to flare chemicals from its pressurized vessels in order to clear them, including a smelly hydrogen sulfide emission Friday evening that exceeded the EPA’s threshold, the agency reported. (Video courtesy Russell Pate)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported on Monday that Limetree Bay refinery exceeded the safe threshold of hydrogen sulfide emissions Friday night, after the agency ordered operations be shut down earlier that day to protect public safety.
“EPA worked over the weekend to get its monitoring up and running. Potentially corresponding to an increase in odor complaints, EPA did get a reading on one of our monitors on Friday night that showed a level that exceeded a threshold value set for hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which EPA refers to as a Tier 1 Action Level,” EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Director Mary Mears reported in an email.
“This and other threshold levels for hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide (SO2), which EPA is working to post online soon, was developed in consultation with federal and state health experts,” Mears wrote.
“The Tier 1 Action Level for H2S is 0.01ppm, and the highest level monitored by EPA on Friday night was 0.012ppm. The level corresponds to a level at which greater than 50 percent of the population may be expected to experience odors. This 0.012ppm level was measured at the monitor station west of the facility and occurred Friday, May 14, between 10:45 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. EPA immediately notified the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR),” Mears said.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. reported during his regularly scheduled Monday news conference that his office continued to receive calls from St. Croix residents complaining of odors. Bryan said this means the odor residents have been complaining of for the past three weeks could be coming from another industrial source.
“We don’t know where the odor is coming from,” Bryan said. “The facility isn’t even operating.”
But it is, the EPA and Department of Planning and Natural Resources confirmed on Monday, as it releases chemicals held in vessels under pressure to clear them.
“Limetree Bay advised us on Friday, after receiving the EPA’s order, that ‘residual hydrocarbons from refinery units that have been shut down are being combusted in the refinery flare until all hydrocarbons have been safely evacuated from the units,’” Mears said.
On Sunday between 9 and 10 p.m., St, Croix resident Russell Pate videoed more refinery flares on the horizon from his home. To the best of Mears’ knowledge, those flares did not emit chemicals exceeding the safe threshold value, Mears said.
As of Monday afternoon, Limetree had not responded to Source requests for more information.