STX Central High to Reopen After Thanksgiving Break

In this 2011 photo, Central High students leave school early after a mysterious odor caused classes to be canceled. (Source file photo)
In this 2011 photo, Central High students leave school early after a mysterious odor caused classes to be canceled. (Source file photo)

St. Croix Central High School will reopen and resume normal operations on Monday, Dec. 2, following more than a week of disruptions caused by a mystery odor that prompted complaints and physical reactions from students and faculty.

The V.I. Department of Education took a series of actions including five days of air-quality monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency, the department announced ina news release issued Monday.

In an effort to provide stakeholder groups the opportunity to experience the Central High campus since mitigation efforts began on Nov. 16, Department of Education officials hosted an extensive walkthrough of the campus Monday with parents, teachers, lawmakers, Board of Education members and union representatives in attendance. There, David Rosoff, on-scene coordinator with the EPA, confirmed that his agency’s monitoring of the campus has yielded no presence of harmful gas emissions.
“So far, since we have been here since Thursday afternoon, we have not seen any levels of hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen cyanide – those are the main components that would react – on campus that would cause any concerns at all,” he said.

However, Rosoff said the EPA has begun talks with the nearby Limetree Bay Terminals, which expects to begin refining oil early next year under the name Limetree Bay Refining LLC, to determine if the noxious odor that caused students and staff to experience symptoms of vomiting and headaches on Nov. 12, 13 and 18 might be originating from the plant.

The Department of Education, in conjunction with partner agencies, had completed a series of mitigation actions prior to the EPA’s arrival on the Central High campus on Nov. 21. Blocked sewage lines identified on and near the campus were cleared and deodorized and damaged manholes underwent minor repairs, the DOE news release said.

Participants on Monday’s campus walkthrough noted an area of the campus that had experienced oil spillage from heavy equipment brought on to the Central High campus on Nov. 16 to clear the clogged sewer lines. It was still giving off a gaseous odor after two previous cleanings. On the advice of environmentalists from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the affected soil and concrete were unearthed, properly disposed of and resurfaced with fresh materials.

Department of Health officials will hold informational sessions on the Central High campus on Dec. 2 to reassure students and staff, and answer any questions they might have. Government agencies will be on hand to provide support as needed.