During Monday’s weekly Government House media briefing, Daryl Jaschen, executive director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, outlined the plan for removing three hazardous chemicals from the Port Hamilton Refinery and Transportation facility on St. Croix that should begin Tuesday.
In December, the Environmental Protection Agency mandated the removal, by EPA approved contractors, of 253,000 gallons of rich amine solution, 37,000 gallons of liquid petroleum gas, and 8,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia from the refinery. A September report found the plant was in a dangerous state of disrepair.
“Transportation of the hazardous chemicals by truck to the container port will be through an interconnecting fence gate and not involve any movement on public highways,” Jaschen said on Monday.
According to the director, the removal and transportation of the substances should be completed by the end of June or early July.
The anhydrous ammonia and LPG will be placed into specially designed shipping containers, transported to the container port and shipped outside of the territory for sale or disposal, Jaschen said. The removal of the rich amine solution will be via 55 certified containers and then shipped out of the territory. That removal will be conducted seven days a week but only during daylight, he said.
Jaschen said the EPA has set up a website displaying real-time results from air monitoring where the chemicals are located, on the fence line at Port Hamilton and elsewhere on St. Croix. There are 14 active EPA air monitoring stations, which operate 24 hours a day. The webpage can be accessed in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.
The plan was formulated through weekly meetings of the Local Emergency Planning Committee; Port Hamilton; Ocean Point Terminals; the Department of Planning and Natural Resources; V.I. Fire and EMS Services; V.I. Health Department; Juan F. Luis Hospital; V.I. Human Services; VI Police Department; Government House Joint Information Center; the V.I. National Guard; VITEMA and the EPA.
The Local Emergency Planning Committee and agency partners conducted outreach efforts last week to educate the community about the plan, including EPA presentations held at St. Croix Central High School and the University of the Virgin Islands. The EPA hotline number 1-866-462-4789.
Dr. Esther Ellis, territorial epidemiologist, shared important information about COVID vaccines during the briefing. She said the Food and Drug Administration recently simplified the emergency use authorizations for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioTech COVID-19 bivalent mRNA vaccines.
“This action includes authorizing the current bivalent vaccines to be used for all doses, administered to individuals six months of age and older, including for an additional dose or doses for certain populations,” Ellis said. “The monovalent Moderna and Pfizer-Biotech COVID-19 forms vaccines are no longer authorized for use in the United States.”
The FDA announced last week that data supports simplifying the use of the vaccines because it shows that most people in the U.S. age five years and older have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. Antibodies to the virus that causes COVID can be a foundation for protection from the bivalent vaccines, according to the FDA.
Ellis also announced that the territory’s COVID cases are in the single digits for the third week in a row, with one case on St. Croix and five on St. Thomas. There is one person hospitalized on St. Croix, she said.
Ellis invited people to take advantage of free HIV/STD testing and free prophylactics near Fort Christian during the St. Thomas Carnival. The DOH also will have a hydration station on Thursday’s J’ouvert route, with free Gatorade and hand sanitizer.
Since this is World Immunization Week, Ellis invited people to call 340-718-1311 or 340-774-7477 to find out what and when vaccines should be taken.
Richard Motta, Government House communications director, who managed the press conference, announced that Juan F. Luis Hospital successfully moved into the temporary facility, JFL North, over the weekend. Hopes are that JFL, which was damaged in the hurricanes of 2017, will be demolished by the end of the year.
On a final note, he said the V.I. Bureau of Internal Revenue had sent out $10 million in tax refunds — more than 3,200 checks — for returns filed before March 14, 2021.