The “noxious” smell of St Croix’s Limetree Bay refinery closes schools and requires health advice.
A “noxious” gaseous smell from the recently reopened St Croix refinery that caused the schools to close was caused by excessive hydrogen sulfide emissions, US Virgin Islands officials said Friday.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) advises people with respiratory ailments such as allergies, lung disease, and asthma to consider taking protective actions such as staying indoors or relocating to less affected areas.
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration describes hydrogen sulfide “as a colorless gas known for its pungent” rotten egg “odor at low concentrations. It is extremely flammable and highly toxic. “
The odor was caused by an “operational disturbance” during the night and early morning that was corrected, according to a Limetree Bay spokesperson.
“Limetree Bay executive management sincerely apologizes for the impact on the public,” the spokesperson said, adding that the company will continue to monitor the effects on the external community.
The DPNR told Reuters it is investigating the extent to which Limetree has exceeded permissible levels of hydrogen sulfide.
Local grammar schools and a vocational and technical training center shut down in-person learning after students and staff reported feeling nauseous from a “noxious smell” affecting air quality on campuses on 22 April, according to a notice from the US Virgin Islands Education Department.
A community coronavirus vaccination center in St Croix was also closed on Friday due to the smell, a representative told Reuters.
The smell was observed west of the island in Frederiksted for several days and sparked complaints from citizens, according to the DPNR.
The refinery recently resumed fuel production after its entire plant shutdown earlier this month due to an undisclosed operational problem.