April 13, 2006 – The amount of toxic chemicals released into the air and water by local industries fell by more than 25 percent between 1998 and 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a news release issued Wednesday.
"It's been a trend across the county," EPA spokesman Rich Cahill said Thursday.
In the Virgin Islands, the numbers fell from 1.7 million pounds in 1998 to 1.2 million pounds in 2004, the latest year that statistics are available.
Cahill said the EPA uses the year 1998 as the starting point because the agency increased the number of facilities required to report their emissions that year. The number of chemicals on the list also rose to 650. Cahill said more than 23,000 facilities across the country now submit reports.
Additionally, between 2003 and 2004 the release of all toxic materials fell by 5.4 percent. The release of lead into the environment fell by 25 percent from 1,221 pounds to 905 pounds in the same time period.
Cahill said tightened regulations coupled with a downturn in industries that create toxic chemicals as a by-product contributed to reduction in toxic chemicals released into the air and water.
Cahill said that St. Croix's Hovensa facility is responsible for much of the reduction since it is the territory's largest industrial facility.
Alex Moorhead, Hovensa vice president, said the company has done several things to reduce the release of toxic chemicals.
"We've maintained a leak-detection program," he said, adding that valves, pumps and flanges are checked on a scheduled basis for hydrocarbon leaks, which are invisible to the eye. He said, when they're found, they're repaired within five days.
Moorhead said the company also installed seals on the roofs of tanks used to store hydrocarbons that vaporize readily at ambient temperature.
And, he said Hovensa also reduced emissions by changing the technology used in the sulfur recovery unit.
Moorhead said that although the air quality outside the plant meets EPA standards, the company continues to work on improvements.
The EPA keeps track of these figures under its Toxics Release Inventory.
"This inventory is one of the most effective tools for reducing pollution because it provides invaluable information to both the public and industry," EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg said in a news release.
He said that while the report is principally designed to inform the public, facilities also use it to identify promising areas for preventing pollution.
Moorhead said that the information has helped Hovensa in reducing emissions.
In addition to Hovensa, the agency's Web site lists Esso and Texaco's bulk fuel terminals, the V.I. Water and Power Authority and the V.I. National Park as facilities required to submit reports.
Cahill said the companies and agencies compile their own data. It is then sent to the EPA.
Visit the EPA's Web site to look at the scientific data generated by the Toxics Release Inventory.
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