All of us are affected by the air we breathe, the energy we use, the water we drink and our waste disposal system. We count on you to help us to share information and ideas, so that we all may become more knowledgeable about our islands and coastal waters and what activities would hurt or help the islands, coastal waters, Virgin Islanders, endangered species and our planet Earth.
Our objective at greenervi.org is to create an environmental forum for Virgin Islanders, to share information on environmental issues, and to work with Federal and local agencies to find solutions to our environmental challenges in the United States Virgin Islands.
2/19/2017 Letter to EPA Administrator Puritt
Dear Administrator Pruitt:
Please allow me to introduce myself: My name is Susan Wolterbeek. I was an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County, a private and NH Attorney for DCYS on Child Abuse and Neglect cases, and I have been doing my best for the past 9 years without any financial support, to help protect Coral and Turtles, Endangered Species, and to get the EPA (and NOAA) to do their job in the USVI. As you can see by the attached IG’s Report from 2015, the EPA failed miserably, and continues to allow criminals to get paid huge salaries, drive fancy cars, get huge pensions, all at the cost of the Endangered Species and the people who live here. Since the people who live here are predominantly minorities, our Civil Rights are also being violated every day by the very Federal Agencies sworn to protect us.
After trying briefly to work with local agencies, I focused my energy on federal agencies to follow federal laws, MOU’s and their own Mandates. In 2009, I was able to prove to USACE that our then Governor and head of Port Authority had lied to USACE 3 times, in writing, in combination with their application to dredge St. Thomas Harbor and dump the dredge spoils into Lindberg Bay, St. Thomas. After reading my attached article published in the VI Daily News, USACE allowed the Governor to pull his application to avoid prosecution, and they did not dump in Lindberg Bay.
Then I learned, after living here for over 12 years, because it was not reported in our newspapers, as required, that VI Waste Management was dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of raw, untreated sewage and toxins regularly into our coastal waters, and according to the EPA itself, private dumping by hotels, etc. was twice as bad. When Judith Enck was newly appointed, she immediately took strong action against NY and NJ environmental criminals, and continued to do so, but she refused, repeatedly, to prosecute in the USVI. This is not only selective prosecution, she had a mandate by the MOU on Minority Juridictions to take corrective action, to weigh in as big brother, so that the corrupt local government would stop lining their pockets with federal funds, and actually take care of the environment.
When she first visited these islands in February 2010, Administrator Enck was not told by Jim Casey of the EPA, or anyone supervising DPNR, (I told her) that VIWMA was right then in the middle of dumping 3.4 Millions of Gallons of raw sewage and toxins, per day, for 60 days, from LBJ Pump Station over Long Reef in St. Croix, and two other pump stations in St. Croix were also dumping, at the same time, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Judith Enck did instruct EPA lawyers to go back to Court, twice, in 2010 and 2011, on a Clean Water Act case the EPA brought in 1984, but all the EPA did from 1984 onward was fine VIWMA for their dumping of raw sewage, and cut their federal funds. The lawyers assigned to the case, particularly Donald Frankel and Eduardo Gonzales, did not know, and did not seem to care, what the actual facts were, which I had gleaned from Non-Compliance Reports given to me by Jim Casey and newspaper articles showing May Adams Cornwall herself and others from VIWMA signed off on documents to the Court saying they were in compliance, had bought the necessary pumps, etc, when they had not, despite what they told and then certified to Judge Gomez. Please see the attached letters to Gonzalez and Frankel, as well as what the Federal Judges have said over the years.
Bottom line, we have open, overflowing dumpsters infested with rats to place our garbage. There is no recycling. We have huge “Dumps” on St. Thomas, (which now looks like a mountain) and St. Croix which were ordered closed decades ago. These unlined dumps leach into our groundwater, and there is a pipe which spews heated, turbid “water” from the St. Thomas Dump into our coastal waters. Heat and turbidity kill coral. WAPA, our power company, also has a heated pipe spewing water into our coastal waters. There is a closed aluminum factory on St. Croix which is spreading Red Mud, laden with toxic, heavy metals, into communities in St. Croix.
WAPA cuts our power now every other day, for hours. They call it rolling blackouts. We had almost no power Christmas week, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. Thus in addition to the up to 56 cents we have had to pay a kilowatt, when the national average is 8-10 cents, we also have to have our home diesel generators running, so our January 2017 bill for 2 people without air conditioning was $238 plus $57 for the diesel. Now WAPA promises more power cuts and intends to increase our rates 40%, because the corrupt local government and the hospitals apparently do not pay their WAPA bills at all.
There are pump out stations required at every marina- but no one at DPNR or EPA enforces this at all. There is just 1 pump out station for St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island, so the boaters and yachts just dump their waste directly into the coastal waters. The air pollution from ships blowing their stacks leaves a black, tarry residue on beach chairs and the local outside vendors and their wares.
The IG over the EPA finally investigated in 2014, and published in 2015 that the EPA MUST take over Waste Management, DPNR and WAPA, because those corrupt and grossly inefficient local agencies were not protecting our environment. The EPA continually refuses to take over these local agencies, or follow the MOUs on the Endangered Species Act, EO 13089, the MOU on Minority Jurisdictions, and the EPA is violating our Civil Rights every day, because the people who live here are mostly Minorities. There are criminal laws associated with these federal laws being violated every day by the EPA, and NOAA, along with VIWMA, DPNR and WAPA.
Every time the EPA is aware of ANY dumping of raw sewage and toxins, the EPA MUST report to NOAA and have a Formal Evaluation, because of the Coral and Turtles who live here- the EPA has not done that here apparently since the MOUs became active, some decades ago.
I thought getting a Director for the Caribbean was going to help, but I met with Carmen Guerrero in September, told her these big issues and specific ones too. For example, Betty’s Hope Beach near Enfield Green, St. Croix has large fully formed human feces on its beach, Waste Management said it wasn’t their fault, and DPNR did not take care of it. Also, at Abi Beach Bar, at the edge of Green Cay Plantation, an area never developed or permitted because it is a nesting ground for endangered turtles, owner Nicolosi moved ground with heavy equipment and no permits, and apparently told people to come to the bar for turtling as the endangered species were hatching. Someone put it up on Facebook and you can see the turtles in buckets, attached. Nicolosi, apparently without any local agency’s knowledge, also planned to develop the entire 150 acres calling it Sanctuary Cove, and was trying to get investors over the internet. Please see the attached. Finally, because of the outraged neighbors, DPNR initially fined Nicolosi $250,000, then DPNR apparently made a “deal” that Nicolosi could fund $100,000 in scholarships for worthy students. Who knows if he paid that out. He belongs in jail for what he did to the turtles. I told all this to Director Carmen Guerrero when we met in September. When I asked Jim Casey at that meeting if I could see the file, he got cute. Casey said I could not see a file undergoing investigation. I asked if the EPA was investigating that matter, and he finally admitted the EPA was not. We have no transparency here at all in government, even with the local members of the federal government.
I reiterated all this and these specific examples when I wrote to Director Guerrero in December and included 40 attachments of proof of our terrible environmental situation here in the USVI. Please see attached.
Director Guerrero scheduled a call conference with me on Friday, February 3, 2017. She had a month and a half to read the 5 page letter to her and the attachments, but when I asked her about the Abi Beach Bar “deal” with DPNR, she said she had no idea what I was talking about, and she admitted she had not read all the attachments. I said, you also did not even bother to read my letter to you, Carmen, let alone the 40 attachments, because Abi Beach Bar and Sanctuary Cove figured prominently in my 5 page letter to her. See attached.
As I said to Judith Enck in my letter to her of May 17, 2010, which she admitted she completely forgot about after later reading my letter published on March 2, 2011, WE COULD EASILY HAVE A CHOLERA OUTBREAK HERE. WE HAVE AN OVERWHELMING AMOUNT OF STAPH INFECTIONS, but Judith refused to even ask the local hospitals and doctors for data on how many staph infections they have been treating, or ask the CDC to do so.
I have worked for 9 years on trying to get the EPA and NOAA to follow the federal criminal laws, MOU’s and then the 2015 IG’s Report, but Director Guerrero still says the EPA will not take over Waste Management, DPNR and WAPA, and has no plans to do so. Even the EPA reported to U.S. Congress in 1998 how bad off the U.S. Virgin Islands were then, 19 years ago, yet curiously that USVI section in Chapter 5 was deleted from the Report and is no longer attainable on line. Attached is a copy.
Through GreenerVI.org I have become a liaison for locals to tell me what is going on environmentally. Although Director Guerrero assured me that DPNR is taking a very active role now, it turns out that nothing could be further from the truth. Apparently for 8 months DPNR has been out of fuel funds to gas up their boats, and they have not done any patrolling or enforcing at all. In the lagoon, where our mangroves grow, which are the life of the island, people are tying 30-40 boats directly onto the mangroves, which kills them. There are apparently 30 derelict boats with fuel tanks and other polluters sinking into the water, which have been ticketed, but DPNR has not towed them away or done anything with them. I have been told that Companies have been CLEARCUTTING mangroves to put up illegal docks, with no permits. The areas to check are around EcoTours, Tropical Marine and Compass Point Marina. I cannot verify the above information myself, I do not have a boat, but you can order it to be done.
Please help us, NOW! We need our water tested, correctly, and thoroughly, and not by DPNR and Amy Dempsey’s company, whose tests the EPA itself threw out for years. If you look at the newspaper article about the 2015 IG’s report, as well as the report itself, you will see we are and have been in an emergency situation for years. Please weigh in now, and get our water tested, and we really need a federal task force, with the Dept. of Energy, NOAA, Dept. of the Interior and Fish and Wildlife. After all my years of pushing there is finally a federal criminal investigation ongoing into environmental crimes in the USVI, so perhaps that will spur the EPA to do its job, but I am begging you please, Administrator Pruitt, to finally make the coral, turtles and humans of the USVI a priority for the EPA.
We need help, Mr. Pruitt, as we needed it 19 years ago, but now the environment is so bad it just can’t sustain us anymore. We already have 200 beaches that are polluted, and the fecal coliform and turbidity is terrible, and unless stopped, will kill the rest of the coral, which needs clean, clear water to survive. Most of our seagrasses are gone, which is what our green turtles feed on. We need to start recolonizing coral and seagrasses and sponges, but first the dumping must stop! Please help us, and not with words but with the action the IG reported- take over the local corrupt and inefficient agencies and save us before it is too late.
Sincerely, Susan K. Wolterbeek, Esq.,
President GreenerVI.org POB 306658, St. Thomas, VI 00803
12/16/2016 Letter from the President
Dear Director Guerrero:
It was such a pleasure to meet with you. Right after I met with you I became very ill, and in and out of the hospital, so now I am much better and ready to give you the information we discussed.
My primary concern is unless fundamental steps are taken right now, in the US Virgin Islands, all the coral will be killed and all the turtle grass and turtles gone. In addition, as I stated in my May 17, 2010 letter to Judith Enck, attached, we could easily have a cholera epidemic here, (which would also kill our economy). Haiti’s cholera epidemic which began in 2010 now has over 700,000 victims and over 9,000 deaths. That same year, 2010, VI Waste Management consciously and knowingly dumped over 300-400 million gallons of raw sewage and toxic materials into our coastal waters, which I proved to the EPA using their own data. See attached.
As promised, here are the two MOU’s on the ESA and on Minority jurisdictions, Executive Order 13089, as well a study by the IG showing the EPA engages in selective prosecution. When Judith Enck started in December 2009, she had many arrests in New York and New Jersey. She will not prosecute here, which is precisely contrary to the MOU’s and federal criminal law. The EPA refuses to take action against the people of VIWMA, DPNR or local EPA. When Geoffrey Garrison claimed the EPA made headway by retiring Carl Soderberg early, I said good, without a pension, in a jail cell, right? And now everyone behind him is going to start magically following the law?
As you see, the wording on both MOU’s are mandatory and unequivocal. Under the Endangered Species Act MOU, every time there is a dumping of contaminants, raw sewage, chemicals, toxins, and even cloudy or heated water (which damages or kills coral), the EPA MUST alert NOAA and file for a formal evaluation, which it has never done once in 32 years while VIWMA has been dumping hundreds of millions of gallons per year and continues to do so (pursuant to the records provided by your Jim Casey, newspaper articles and court testimony). Further, and even scarier, the EPA states VIWMA is only 1/3 of the problem- private dumping is twice as bad.
We citizens have no idea what private dumping exists on our islands, because we cannot get access to those records. We have sunshine laws here, but they mean nothing to the bureaucrats when faced with ordinary citizens. If DPNR will not enforce our environmental protection laws, the EPA has not only a duty to do so, there is an MOU to that effect, so the EPA MUST TAKE ENFORCEMENT ACTION. Further, in Executive Order 13089, attached, President Clinton in essence gave protection to ALL CORAL found in our waters, not just the ones listed.
The MOU for Minority jurisdictions attached below, says that the federal agencies MUST be proactive, as Big Brother, which is the only hope for the people who live here in the USVI, and for our coastal waters, because local corruption, inefficiency, etc. is so rampant. See the attachment on DPNR officials, and what the billionaires are doing below. I have been asking and pleading with Judith Enck to enforce the federal laws here, but so far she refuses to tell the US Attorney to prosecute. The EPA MUST tell the US Attorney to prosecute-you are obliged under these two MOU’s. Nevertheless, the EPA refuses to enforce federal criminal laws which protect turtles, coral and other endangered species, as well as us from Cholera, septicemia, etc.
Further, the IG’s Report attached shows the EPA does not prosecute equally in the US. Region 2 itself seems inexplicably biased against us here. Pursuant to the MOU on minorities, you MUST act as our Big Brother, taking care of us, yet the EPA refuses to prosecute the very people who are responsible for polluting our coastal waters, and land and air. Since 2010, the EPA seemed to have no problem putting many NY and NJ people in orange jumpsuits, yet the EPA will not prosecute here. WHY, when the EPA is mandated to do so? Will the EPA now start the formal evaluation of our coastal waters with NOAA?
I have been asking EPA Region 2 since 2010 to stop the dumping, to prosecute the criminals, and to start testing our water correctly. So far, none of that has happened, despite the IG’s report itself that the EPA must take over WAPA, VIWMA and DPNR for their inefficiencies and pollution. The EPA has spent millions on water tests that were all thrown out in 2010 as done wrong…then the EPA paid the same people to again perform bad water tests. By the way, Doug Pabst deleted my email to him without ever reading it. Geoffrey Garrison promised in August, 2013, that neither DPNR nor Amy’s outfit who got all the other tests wrong prior years would conduct any more of the VI water tests from now on…yet the EPA continues to fund the faulty testing.
For a true list of wastewater discharges- there is none. I have provided you the best list I could for years 2010 and 2011, dated 3-31-11 supplemented by emails to Attorney Gonzales. The VIWMA does not fill out its non-compliance reports, and yet they are accepted by DPNR and the EPA, often stating “ongoing” when LBJ pump house in St. Croix, for example, was dumping for 60 DAYS 1-15-10 – 1-16-10, and Figtree and Barren spot were dumping then too. VIWMA never states the amount of sewage it is dumping, but the LBJ alone spewed out 3.4 million per day. VIWMA admitted in Court to dumping 50 million gallons, but the figure is realistically much closer to 300-400 million. Please read also my emails to EPA Attorney Eduardo Gonzales of 4/1/10 and 4/11/10.
12/14/2015 Letter from the President
We at GreenerVI.org have been working to save the coral and turtles in VI coastal waters. In 2009, a few days after our letter and research to the Army Corps of Engineers was published, the VI withdrew its application to dredge the harbor and dump the spoils in Lindbergh Bay. Since then, we have been pressing federal agencies to take legal responsibility for their willful inaction.
As a regulatory agency, the EPA is legally responsible to ensure our environment is being protected. In 2009-2013, we lodged several complaints with the Inspector General’s Office which oversees the federal EPA, for failing to protect USVI coastal waters. In January 2014, the IG’s Office sent a team to the USVI, who investigated all the sea, land and air environmental issues, met with many federal and local agencies and met with us for several hours. We reviewed and furnished them with hundreds of documents.
The IG’s report was published on the EPA site on October 15, 2015, (see link) finding:
The USVI’s deficiencies place the public and environment at increased risk by allowing unmonitored or excess pollutants into the air, land, surface waters and drinking water.
The IG’s report recommends the EPA take over VI Waste Management, DPNR and WAPA, evaluate the environmental problems and fix them.
Now that we have this report from the IG’s Office, this is the plan:
- We will first write to the Administrators of the EPA and NOAA jointly, along with the coral, turtle, and endangered species groups, urging them to agree to a joint investigation of USVI coastal waters and plan for amelioration, clean-up, recolonization of coral, sea grasses, etc.
- If no agreement is reached, then we file suit under the Endangered Species Act. Since 1984, the EPA has documented extensive dumping of raw sewage and chemicals in USVI waters, and on each of those occasions the EPA was REQUIRED to alert NOAA, for the protection of the Coral and Turtles. The EPA has never alerted NOAA, even in 2010, when VI Waste Management itself was knowingly dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage and chemicals over reefs in St. Croix. The EPA is in violation of the Endangered Species Act, and therefore must pay to evaluate and ameliorate our coastal waters. This will bring great revenue into the territory, and create many jobs, as well as boost the enrollment in UVI marine studies.
- We would need to pay the Coral Expert fees and the ink, paper, mailing and equipment costs of bringing suit. We ask for volunteers for ideas, resources, and to work together to flesh out the overall environmental plan, which will include recycling and closing the dumps.
Susan Wolterbeek, President GreenerVI.org 1A4 Estate St Peter
PO Box 306658 St Thomas, VI 00803 (340) 714-2233 susan@GreenerVI.org