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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.

 

 

 

 

October 10, 2014

Geoffrey Garrison, EPA Region II     Garrison_Geoffrey@epa.gov

 

Dear Geoffrey:

 

I am writing to follow-up on letters to you dated 8-23-13  and 6-16-14 (see below) concerning waste water discharges into US Virgin Island coastal waters and the testing of those waters which surround the small islands where we live.

 

In August 2013 when we met in person, you talked about the abject failure of DPNR to test our waters correctly, and admitted DPNR had not been testing our waters correctly for several years. You stated the EPA would be hiring a new independent contractor within the month, and that once they started testing our waters in September, 2013, that the EPA would make sure we citizens had the results quickly.

 

Instead, despite the convictions of DPNR Commissioners in 2008 for bribery and kickbacks, and the arrest of DPNR Chief of Enforcement, Tapia in May, 2013,  on September 24, 2013, Chief of Enforcement Tapia plead guilty to using DPNR boats to smuggle cocaine… and the EPA continued to fund DPNR to protect our waters and conduct our water tests.  With the head of enforcement and DPNR commissioners smuggling cocaine, accepting bribes, etc. the focus of DPNR has clearly not been to protect VI coastal waters, or test them correctly, as the EPA threw out DPNR’s water test results of previous years.

 

You stated on June 16, 2014 then again on July 1, 2014 that you would respond to my 6-16-14 letter.  You admitted on July 1, 2014 that although water tests were taken by DPNR in September 2013, the EPA still has not released the results of the tests of the waters which surround the islands where we live.

 

Geoffrey, with “transparency” as its mandate, how does the EPA justify keeping the water tests and discharges secret from US citizens for over a year? Further, under the attached MOUs for minorities and endangered species, which use mandatory language, the EPA has a specifically higher duty to act, protecting us VI citizens, and our endangered species.

 

I asked you by letter dated 8-23-13, and again by letter of 6-16-14, over 3 months ago for all sewage discharges into USVI coastal waters since August, 2013 The EPA has still not complied with that request, and as you know, it is supposed to respond within 30 days.

 

Geoffrey, I hereby request all sewage discharge documents from 1-1-2011 to the present, whether by VIWMA or private sources. DPNR is required to give this information to the EPA, as every dumping is a violation of several federal criminal laws and specific District Court orders.  Please make sure this FOIA request will be answered finally, fully and completely. Perhaps the EPA can forward these documents in sections by month or year, as there are many hundreds of documents involved.

 

DPNR does not list violations on their website, and the EPA’s website itself states that private dumping is twice as bad as VIWMA. NOTE: as stated in my letter of 8-23-14, this request includes ALL documents in any way referring to any overflows or discharges, of any kind, whether the discharges have been agreed to or not. In the past, VIWMA has not prepared Non-Compliance Reports for major discharges when they were communicated to DPNR or the EPA in advance, so please, we request ALL discharge communications, from ALL sources. Also the non-compliance reports themselves are supposed to state quantities and dates and times of discharge. As I proved to EPA attorneys Feinmark and Gonzalez, in 2010 alone, over 100 million gallons of raw sewage dumped by VIWMA was not reported by VIWMA on Noncompliance Reports.

 

Geoffrey, in addition to all VIWMA and private discharges since 1-1-2011, please get us the full scoop on the EPA approved USVI water test results since 2007, as according to the DPNR 2010 Report and our conversation in August of 2013, the EPA threw out DPNR results since 2007.

 

Geoffrey, is it in your purview as EPA liaison to speak with the hospital and medical staff in the VI, and then the health department?  Many of us have staph infections and even flesh eating bacteria. We also have had severe gastrointestinal problems, and need to know the poisons, bacteria, heavy metals etc. present in our waters. We have a right to know what we are swimming and fishing and snorkeling in. The coral and turtles are supposed to be protected as well. Please get us this information, Geoffrey. Thank you.

 

Sincerely, Susan

Susan Wolterbeek, President        GreenerVI.org          1A4 Estate St Peter             PO Box 306658

St Thomas, VI 00803          (340) 714-2233        susan@GreenerVI.org

 

 

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We travel together, passengers on a little space ship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and I will say, the love we give our fragile craft.
–Adlai E. Stevenson II, 1965 

 

Emails to and from EPA Rep. Geoffrey Garrison July, 2014:

Susan Wolterbeek <susanwolterbeek@gmail.com>
to Geoffrey June 19, 2014

Dear Geoffrey:

 

Hello. I hope that you are well.  When we met last August, 2013, you had said that finally the EPA was starting to test our waters. Up until then, as you know, we had no data (besides beach reports) beyond 2007, as DPNR’s 2008 and 2009 reports were thrown out by the EPA.

 

1. Was the 2007 testing done the same way the 2008 and 2009 testing was done?  If so, why were the 2007 results not thrown out as well?

 

2. Do we have the results yet from the tests conducted in September 2013?

 

3. Do those tests include nitrogen levels for all the USVI?

 

4. Are the tests which have been conducted since 2013 comprehensive, and what areas are they testing for?

 

5. To your knowledge, have there been ANY discharges in the USVI by waste management since we met last year?  Does Waste Management inform you directly when they dump raw sewage or chemicals?

 

6. According to the EPA itself, Waste Management is only 1/3rd of the problem, and since we can document hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage being dumped by Waste Management in any given year, is any organization or individual monitoring private dumping? Are you alerted when private dumping occurs?

 

7. As you are aware, the head of DPNR enforcement was indicted last fall for smuggling cocaine, using DPNR boats.  Clearly, DPNR did not put our waters first. Is anyone at DPNR actively investigating and taking action against dumping now?

 

8. How or where can the public access the information concerning dumping into USVI coastal waters and the actions taken by the local or federal government to stop it?

 

9. Are you aware of the larger proliferation of Staph infections in the USVI? Is the EPA in contact with the Dept. of Health in regard to our polluted waters? Is there anyone on point at the Dept. of Health that is a liaison to the public?

I appreciate hearing from you. Sincerely, Susan

________________________________________

 

Garrison, Geoffrey Garrison.Geoffrey@epa.govTo me June 19, 2014

Hi Susan,

 

I am well, thank you.  And yourself?

 

I am working on the information you requested.  I will send it to you as our staff provides it to me, instead of waiting for it all to come in.  Get back to you shortly.

 

Respectfully,

 

Geoff

 

Geoffrey Garrison

On-Scene Coordinator

EPA Region II

(340) 201-5328

 

 

Garrison, Geoffrey <Garrison.Geoffrey@epa.gov>
to me July 1, 2014

Susan,

 

Update on your information request:  Edna Villanueva from EPA is compiling the answers to your questions, I expect that we will be responding soon.

 

Geoff Garrison

(340) 201-5328

 

 

 

Response to Questions on Water Quality Testing and Discharges

Garrison, Geoffrey Garrison.Geoffrey@epa.gov

to me July 21, 2014:

Hello Susan,

Here are the responses to the first four questions; the answers are highlighted in “blue.”  We expect to answer the remaining questions soon.  As in this case, I will forward the answers as they are provided to me and not wait to consolidate them.

Respectfully,

 

Geoffrey M. Garrison

(340) 201-5328

 

1. Was the 2007 testing done the same way the 2008 and 2009 testing was done?  If so, why were the 2007 results not thrown out as well?

While there were issues with some of the data collected from 2008-2011 (as discussed in the attached 2010 and 2012 Integrated Reports), we are unaware of any data accuracy issues prior to these years.  Here is a link to the reports for 2010 and 2012:

http://www.epa.gov/region2/water/waterbodies/

2. Do we have the results yet from the tests conducted in September 2013?

 

Yes, we do have the September results, they are under QA review.  They should be final and available to the public within the next month or two. (Emphasis supplied).

 

3. Do those tests include nitrogen levels for all the USVI?

 

The parameters tested included Total Phosphorus, Total Kjedahl Nitrogen and Total Suspended Solids.

 

4. Are the tests which have been conducted since 2013 comprehensive, and what areas are they testing for?

Water Quality Monitoring is done according to parameters listed in VIDPNR’s Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) and monitoring sites (there are a total of 128 stations around the three Islands).  The QAAP is currently being revised, the proposed list of parameters is as follows:  temperature, Dissolved Oxygen, salinity, pH, turbidity, secchi disk depth, total suspended solids, fecal coliform, enterococcus, Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen, and Total Phosphorus.

 

 

USACE: Please note that I have not received any further communications or responses to questions 5-9 from the EPA.

 

 

August 23, 2013

Geoffrey Garrison, EPA Region II, Garrison_Geoffrey@epa.gov

 

Dear Geoffrey:

It was great meeting you, and thank you for your further conversations. It seems that Buddy and you are really pushing for changes now, which is great. Thank goodness the EPA has finally taken the funding from DPNR for water testing. Yay, Buddy.  Jim McManus is an honest, scrupulous, knowledgeable man, with a great reputation.  He is eager to apply to be a contractor to collect the specimens and deliver them to a lab, etc. for your water testing in St. Thomas and St. John.  Is there an RFP or forms he must fill out?

Now, with the EPA overseeing the water testing, by reliable contractors like Jim who will follow the EPA specifications, we should get a good idea of which areas are polluted right now, and how.  Then, under the Endangered Species Act, (and both the inter-agency MOU’s on the ESA and also on treating minority populations with equality) the EPA must notify NOAA and coordinate a formal evaluation pursuant to Chapter 7 of the Act to formulate a plan of rejuvenation and re-colonization.  Thomas Bigford is the NOAA contact for this. Attached are  emails to and from him.

In March, 2010, Judge Gomez demanded VIWMA certify,  in written submissions, that all the necessary pumps of all pump stations were installed and working, and that there were back-up pumps, so that there would be no more “bypasses” of millions of gallons of sewage.

Instead, VIWMA signed those sworn statements to the Federal District Court, then “borrowed” a pump from another station, LBJ, to cover Fig Tree station, for example. A month later LBJ was pumping millions of gallons per day into Christiansted Harbor, when LBJ failed. This is just where the triathloners swam a few days later, as described in my letter to Judith 5-16-10.

Although VIWMA was given the money for all the replacement pumps in March, 2010, VIWMA still had not put in the purchase order…and did not do so for over 14 months, directly in contempt of the court orders of 3-16-10 and 3-31-10, as I told EPA officials repeatedly. No one from the EPA checked on VIWMA’s compliance with the Court Orders, even after I pointed them out.   Eduardo and Frankel refused to submit the actual bypass history to the Court, and grossly understated to the Court the raw sewage figures. See attached.

The dumping of hundreds of millions of gallons of raw, untreated sewage has continued ever since. Please scrutinize Exhibit 2- all the reports they told us about. It is obvious there are many Non-Compliance Reports missing- especially for the very large bypasses.

        When a Non-Compliance Report said “On-going Bypass”, I counted in my Summary only 1 day, but in fact the “ongoing” could have been “ongoing” for weeks or months, and often was. The very day I met with you, Udo Penther heard on the radio that one of the St. Croix stations was offline, meaning pumping raw sewage.

 

        Please ask Jim Casey to give you copies of all Non-Compliance Reports and all emails and other documents referring in any way to bypasses, since January, 2011. The records I received through the freedom of information act are incomplete. Often in 2010 and 2011, as you can see in Exhibit 2, VIWMA did not report some bypasses, especially the largest and most heinous bypasses, on Non-Compliance Reports, but mentioned them casually in letters and emails. So, we want VIWMA’s emails to DPNR and their emails to radio stations and newspapers proving compliance. Remember that VIWMA stated in a non-compliance report, for example, that a station was out for 13.5 hours, when the truth was really 60 full days, not hours, as they later admitted in Court May 11, 2011. 

In all these years, the local representatives of the EPA have never rejected VIWMA’s ludicrous “Non-compliance Reports” , which often have no start and stop dates and times, and none of the Non-compliance Reports state quantities. Is that the responsibility of Jose Font or Pedro Modesto, (who made a dramatic point of kissing May Adams Cornwall on the lips in front of all of us just before we commenced our February meeting). It is clear to all of us where their allegiance is, and that is to Cornwall.

        The only way you will have a whiff of what is really going on with VIWMA, Geoffrey, is if you (would please) demand all the non-compliance reports since 1/1/2011, including emails and or any other documents indicating bypasses, and send me copies. I will do what I did before, (Exhibit 2, Bypasses through 3-30-2011). I will write out a summary of all the Non-Compliance Reports, then compare it to all newspaper articles, and any other data like emails which refer to bypasses. Then you will have complied with my 3 FIO Act requests to the EPA in 11/12, 1/13 and 2/13, and I will be able to finally do the summary of the data, and send it to you and Buddy.

 

I cannot get the information from the radio stations, but you can always ask, or get them from DPNR and VIWMA – you are the big guns, so VIWMA, DPNR, and also the radio stations will probably give you what they have, including any emails from waste management- but you have to ask, especially for “all emails or other communications, oral or written” or they will not give them to you- I have been through this before, with them playing games.

 

Then I input the data and see what they reported on the summary, compare it to the radio lists (which would be the most accurate) and get a sense of where they are not telling the truth.  You see, they do usually make announcements on the West Indian radio stations, which cost VIWMA nothing.  On the other hand, with newspapers, VIWMA has to pay to put ads in the paper notifying everyone about the bypasses, then people like me see them and get upset…so history shows that VIWMA usually DOES NOT report to the newspapers, (let alone publishing the day before, all days of bypass and the day after it ceased),  in direct contravention of the judge’s very specific orders.

Thus, I believe those radio records/announcements, emails… would be very helpful. After all, VIWMA has to prove to the EPA that they did make the notifications…I just do not understand why those notifications were never questioned by the local EPA representatives, especially when I kept proving to them that DPNR was not posting and VIWMA was not publishing in the newspaper. So, Please send me copies!!

 

        Then I will do the second part of the legwork, as I did before,  and go through all the inconsistencies.  Please do take a long look at my Exhibit 2, (in the law suit) the Wastewater Discharges 1-1-10 to 3-23-11(which represented hundreds of hours of investigative work, which Eduardo did not use in court!! [See my letter to him dated 4-11-11. The EPA, through Attorney Donald Frankel,  grossly under-reported the amount of bypasses to the Court, even though I had lengthy conversations with Eduardo, pled with Frankel to use the data, which I had received from the EPA, but they refused.] That is why I finally filed suit a month later.  I would like to know if this is the continued attitude, for Region II to continue to NOT FOLLOW EPA’s #1 Mandate 2011-2013, to stop dumping raw sewage and prosecute the criminals.

 

        Now, with no downside of prosecution to stop the criminals, and instead the EPA’s continued willful refusal to follow its own mandate only currently encourages criminals to keep on dumping, for economic reasons! Surely that cannot be the intention of Region II. Why should a few dozen people ruin our coastal waters, kill coral, give us infections, ruin tourism… They have been getting away with it for over 29 years, as documented in federal district court, and those criminals are being paid large salaries, benefits and retirement monies (and given many millions in grant money by the EPA) to make us ill and ruin our environment!!  I am hopeful one of you in Region II will call Kim Lindquist, Chief of the Criminal Division of the US Attorney’s Office, and finally give him the green light to start prosecuting these criminals who can’t look past their pockets to see they are ruining their own home.

 

Once I have the dates, I then go to the college and physically scan through stacks of every Virgin Islands Daily News and St. Croix Avis, to see what notifications, if any, were given by VIWMA and/or DPNR. As you can see I made a series of notes at the end of the Summary tending to show that VIWMA has been grossly under-reporting the duration of and volume of bypasses, when they have reported them at all. After you have given me the raw data and I have completed the summary of raw sewage discharges 3-1-11- 9-1-13, you would be able to crosscheck with Jamal Neilson whether DPNR did actually post on all the affected beaches, as required, (or not) and whether they did print public notifications in the newspapers on every date.

So basically, if you get the Non-Compliance Reports and emails et al from Waste Management and the proof they alerted the radio stations, then also ask the radio stations,  I will do all the hours of gruntwork collating, reviewing and comparing the raw data you have given me. Okay?!

Many of us USVI environmentalists took part in a large EPA conference in 2011, and we plead with the EPA to change DPNR’s status to “at risk”. If DPNR is not doing the testing and not stopping the dumping, and the EPA knows this, why isn’t the status changed?  These dozens of people (VIWMA, DPNR, local EPA) are allowing this dumping of raw sewage to ruin the environment, endangered species and homes of hundreds of thousands- and so far the EPA will not even ask for sanctions or contempt, let alone criminal prosecution. Why? They are killing our endangered species, our health and our economy.  These people need to be stopped, and stripped of their pensions, which funds can be used to pay for the treatment of staph infections.

I have devoted thousands of hours of my time, so far unpaid, to put together facts and evidence which I lay at the feet of the bosses and attorneys of the EPA…who continually refuse to hold VIWMA and DPNR in Contempt of very specific Court Orders to post signs on beaches and inform the people in the newspapers every single day there is dumping by waste management. It is our right to know if it is safe to go swimming.  Why won’t Region II follow it’s #1 priority of stopping the dumping of raw sewage and prosecuting the offenders? Why won’t Region II PROTECT THE CORAL and TURTLES?

When the test results come back, action will need to be taken.  It would be best if we can formulate a plan now, which includes involving NOAA, and doing a formal evaluation. It may then involve the CDC and the Dept. of Health, too. GreenerVi.org will post all data and summaries, water tests, projects, etc.  We just need the information.  Thank you.

 

Sincerely, Susan

Susan Wolterbeek, President        GreenerVI.org          1A4 Estate St Peter

PO Box 306658     St Thomas, VI 00803          (340) 714-2233        susan@GreenerVI.org

 

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