Pennsylvania State University: high contents of vanadium in soils near oil-refinery on Curaçao

For many years, the Isla-refinery has been at the center of public debate due to its actions causing environmental pollution and affecting public health. These public voices became increasingly fueled with scientific knowledge. For example, in 1976 Elgershuizen and De Kruijf concerned with the impact of oil-spills on coral reefs (“Toxicity of crude oils and dispersant to the stony coral Madracis mirabilis”, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 7 (2), pp. 22-25,1976). And recently, Pulster (University of South Florida) published her PhD thesis that concerns with the huge amounts of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), particulate matter and sulfur dioxide emitted by the Isla-refinery that have been contaminating the air people breathe day after day. Yet, we can add a new study to the huge list of researches carried out so far: “Using trace elements to detect oil refinery pollution on Curaçao”. Following a geochemical approach, Fitz (Pennsylvania State University; Schreyer Honors College) investigated in her thesis the soil on Curaçao in order to determine the abundance of several trace elements, including vanadium (V). Indeed, for many years SMOC has been warning for the emissions of vanadium. A few years ago, TNO confirmed that the green substance, deposited on houses leeward the Isla(BOO)-refinery, contains vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) which can affect public health in myriad of ways. With Fitz, we have a new warning. She concludes (p. 32):

,,Trace elements such as V, Ni, and Cu, were used to trace potential pollution from the Isla Oil Refinery on Curaçao. Both soil sample and mud core data must be taken into consideration before concluding whether or not there is refinery pollution in the terrestrial environment of the island. The soil data maps shown in Figures 3, 4, 6, and 7 indicate that the concentration of Ni and Cu both increased between 1992 and 2014. Calculating tau values of elements in the soil showed that compared to the parent rock material, there was more Ni, V, and Cu close to the refinery than in other areas of the island. These results indicate that soil pollution from the refinery is a likely possibility…..Overall, there is a real possibility that the Isla Oil Refinery is significantly impacting Curaçao’s terrestrial environment. More data and more varieties of data would need to be analyzed for this proposition to be conclusive, though. Analyzing the tree cores, additional mud cores, a greater number of sediment samples, and possibly collecting air samples would all be beneficial next steps to continue the investigation.’’

Clearly, this is a wake-up-call –in a row of many scientific studies- for the Curacao Government to maintain the Isla-refinery. For further reading, see: sporenelementenstudieisla.

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