Public opinion sought for community health survey

Building on a recent survey of the environment and health of St. Croix by Bennington College, JoAnna Poblete, a historian and professor at Claremont Graduate University, launched a community survey last month to gather health information goldfish during the Hess Oil / HOVENSA years.

Historian, writer, educator and researcher JoAnna Poblete leads a survey of health in Sainte-Croix. (Photo courtesy of JoAnna Poblete)

“Since there is little consistent and detailed health information during this period, data from this survey will be shared in a free online public repository that all members of the community can access and add to,” said explained Poblete.

The survey can be viewed online at, and people can complete it anonymously. The survey will last about a year and Poblete hopes to get 600 responses. At the end of the survey period, Poblete will hold community meetings to discuss the results.

The goal of the investigation, Poblete said, is to document possible impacts on the health of citizens living in areas of the refinery over the years. She particularly focuses on respiratory problems, cancer and skin problems.

“These are the conditions encountered in a typical refinery around the world,” Poblete said.

Some of the survey questions include: Where and how long have you lived in Sainte-Croix? Have you had breathing problems, headaches, nausea, eye irritation or skin rashes from the emissions, and how often? Have you or a family member been diagnosed with cancer or other chronic illnesses?

Poblete’s motivation for the investigation is the same as for his previous books – to study colonialism and land rights. His books are Islanders in the Empire: Filipino and Puerto Rican Laborers in Hawaii and Balancing the Tides: Marine Practices in American Samoa.

According to Poblete, US territories have been hit by the federal government and are not recognized for how they have improved life on the mainland – canned tuna from American Samoa is labeled “made in the USA, petroleum and gas from the Sainte-Croix refinery”. is exported without regard to how it affects the environment and people and US Navy bases have taken over prime land in Puerto Rico and Vieques.

Poblete, during her career as an educator and historian, has studied colonialism and the environment, migration and labor, ethnic studies, indigenous history, environmental history and the history of the United States of the twentieth century.

Poblete has written numerous articles and essays – including Women Community Warriors of St. Croix in April 2021.

The Bennington College survey, developed by David Bond in conjunction with the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism and the St. Croix Environmental Association, received around 600 responses in 2021.

Poblete’s investigation will be combined with Bond’s work in a repository available to Virgin Islanders and managed by a community organization. She hopes more information will be added in the future.

For the Bond investigation, see the full series on VI Corp, Harvey Aluminium, Hess Oil

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