St Bernard Parish Air QualityUNLESS ................................................
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
Sulfur Dioxide Status
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality recommended EPA designate St Bernard Parish air quality non-attainment for sulfur dioxide (SO2). EPA is expected to make its official designation on June 3, 2013. LDEQ must submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) by mid-2014; the SIP must demonstrate the area will reach attainment by 2017. Ambient air monitors display hourly averages for sulfur dioxide. It is a health violation when the one-hour average is 75 parts per billion (ppb) SO2 or higher. An area is considered non-attainment when the 3 year average of the 99th percentile of hourly average readings is 75 ppb or higher. According to EPA's AirData website, St. Bernard's current SO2 3 year average of the 99th percentiles is 255 ppb (two hundred fifty-five) and it needs to be 75 ppb or lower. Clearly there is alot a work ahead to bring sulfur dioxide pollution levels down.
From the Chalmette High School monitor data 2007 - 2011, the maximum hourly readings for each year were 95, 116, 54, 80, and 85 ppb SO2. Although the SO2 standard back then was a 24-hour average of 140 ppb and an annual limit of 30 ppb, the 3 year average was 64 ppb, approaching the current one-hour average 75 ppb limit. (The three year average of the last three available annual 99th percentiles is 64 parts per billion).
From the Meraux monitor data 2008 - 2012, the maxmium hourly readings for each year were 161, 36, 29, 58, and 59 ppb SO2. There seems to be an upward trend in sulfur dioxide concentrations in Meraux. In 2009, Murphy Oil installed interm, temporary pollution controls while in settlement talks with Concerned Citizens. The resultant EPA consent decree requires the new owner, Valero Energy, install a Flare Gas Recovery System by 2017, operate an air monitor on Ventura Drive in Chalmette, reduce various pollution emissions, increase on-site monitoring, and provide for public forums. In the meantime, Murphy Oil installed a benzene saturation unit without state-of-the-art pollution controls, adding to both the sulfur concentrations and VOC emissions. There is pending citizen enforcement action on the benzene unit. Valero Energy recently received a "minor" modification permit to revamp and expand the hydrocracker unit to increase production without more stringent pollution controls; this will result in even more sulfur dioxide pollution. In 2013, the EPA will require "Tier 3" Mandate compliance for even lower sulfur content in gasoline products. Both Valero Energy and ExxonMobil refineries will have to modify their plants to comply. If those modifications do not require more stringent pollution controls, the result will be increased sufur dioxide and VOCs.
The Valero Energy Ventura Drive monitor is not part of the EPA databank, and does not provide maxium reading data, although that information is available in the public forums. Valero Energy's Ventura monitor has its own share of sulfur health violations.
So, the problem is all over, and not just in Chalmette Vista.