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DPNR is Not Testing our Coastal Waters; it’s Unbelievable, but true

 

Here is an excerpt from the 2010 USVI Integrated Water Quality Monitoring & Assessment.  I know its 2013 and we are not sure if DPNR has done anything for 2012 yet.  DPNR is supposed to be performing water quality monitoring for both the EPA and NOAA.  Why has the EPA and NOAA failed to demand water quality testing in the Virgin Islands?

 

To get the full document, so you can read it yourself, here is the link from GreenerVI.  Go to page 78 for the summary.  Please be patient, it is a large PDF document and takes a while to load.

 

PLEASE NOTE: THE SALT RIVER BAY NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK IS ALSO CLASS A- IS IT NOT? YET IT IS BEING BADLY AFFECTED BY THE LBJ/FIGTREE BYPASSES. SANDY POINT AND POINT UDALL ARE ALSO UNDER CLASS A, ARE THEY NOT?

 

PLEASE NOTE: If you scan down and at least review the bolded areas starting on page 78,  this report is illuminating.  Susan

 

 

The 2010 USVI Integrated Water Quality Monitoring & Assessment

Report intends to satisfy the USVI requirements of the Federal Clean

Water Act Sections 305(b) and 303(d).

 

Submitted by:

Department of Planning &Natural Resources

Division of Environmental Protection

St. Croix (340) 773-1082

St. Thomas (340) 774-3320

 

Page 78-

 

4. Toxics/biological monitoring

 

No monitoring for toxics or biological effects is conducted in the Virgin Islands for lack of baseline standards for Virgin Islands conditions. According to the Virgin Islands multi-year monitoring strategy, DPNR will explore options for implementing a biological component of the Ambient Monitoring Program. This may include developing a partnership with NOAA or another agency with similar monitoring objectives.

 

5. Fish tissue, sediment, shellfish monitoring:

 

The Virgin Islands Water Pollution Control program does not include toxic chemicals or biological monitoring. The program also does not monitor fish tissue, sediment or shellfish for toxicity. A background analysis of ambient water quality has not yet been performed to support the adoption of criteria for toxic chemicals (1996 VI 305(b)).

 

6. Quality assurance/quality control program

 

The US Virgin Islands DPNR-DEP Quality Assurance (QA) Program is committed to assuring and improving the quality of all environmental measurements performed by and for the Department. The goal of the QA program is for the acquisition of reliable and defensible environmental data. It is the policy of DPNR that adequate QA activities are conducted within the agency to ensure that all environmental data generated and processed be scientifically valid, of known precision and accuracy, of acceptable completeness, representative, comparability and where appropriate, legally defensible.

During Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009 QA activities such as program technical audits, file audits, revision of the Quality Assurance Management Plan, Management System Reviews, review of program and contractual Quality Assurance Project Plans, review of all program Standard Operating Procedures, and Laboratory Certifications were performed. DPNR has a full-time QA/QC Officer who also acts the Laboratory Certification Officer for the Department.

 

7. Volunteer monitoring

 

DPNR had no monitoring volunteers during the reporting period. Volunteer monitoring, however, is being planned for implementation in future water quality monitoring program activities.

 

8. Program evaluation

 

• A background analysis of ambient water quality is needed to support the adoption of specific criteria for toxic pollutants (1998 305(b) Report). As part of the 2004 US Virgin Islands Water Quality Standards revision, the national recommended criteria were adopted;

 

• New equipment and staff training is needed to assess water quality for the development of toxic and biological criteria (1998 305(b) Report);

• Revisions of the existing Local Water Pollution Control Act and regulation are needed to enhance the program’s ability to enforce its laws and statutes;

 

2010 USVI Integrated Report

Page 79 of 165

 

• Revisions to the Water Quality Standards and criteria to include numeric values instead of narrative description of desired water quality;

 

• Stormwater regulations are being implemented within the TPDES permitting program.

 

B. Assessment Methodology

 

Purpose:

 

The Clean Water Act requires each state, territory and tribe to conduct water quality surveys to determine if its waters are healthy and have sufficient quality to meet their designated uses and attain water quality standards. A report on this water quality assessment is submitted every two years to US Environmental Protection Agency – Region 2. The report incorporates physical, chemical, and microbiological data from the StoRet database, habitat assessments, and beach monitoring data (fish kills/advisories, oil spills, beach closings, etc.). Use of data is subject to availability.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encourages states, territories and tribes to adopt the Integrated Reporting format which blends elements of the 305(b) Water Quality Assessment Report and the 303(d) Impaired Waterbody List. The United States Virgin Islands uses this format to more accurately and completely assess our waterbodies.

 

Complete assessments include:

 

Identification of waterbody type.

 

All waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands shall meet generally accepted aesthetic qualifications and shall be capable of supporting diversified aquatic life.

 

“Waters” of the U.S. Virgin Islands shall be defined, as follows, as in by Title 12, Chapter 7, Section I82(f) of the Virgin Islands Code; all harbors, streams, lakes, ponds, impounding reservoirs, marshes, water-courses, water-ways, wells, springs,

irrigation systems, drainage systems and all other bodies or accumulations of water, surface and underground, natural or artificial, public or private, situated wholly or partly within or bordering upon the United States Virgin Islands, including the territorial seas, contiguous zones, and oceans.

 

These “waters” are included in the U.S. Virgin Islands 2010 Integrated Report. All available groundwater data will be reviewed for possible inclusion in the report and Division of Environmental Protection’s Groundwater Program will provide groundwater discussion in the 2010 Integrated Report. At the very least, the Integrated Report should include an overview of groundwater and wetlands resources.

 

Identification of waterbody classification and designated use.

 

According to the US Virgin Islands water quality standards, the waters of the Virgin Islands exist in one of three classes: A, B and C. The following describes the geographical extent of the three waterbody classes, the associated designated uses, and the applicable water quality standards.

 

2010 USVI Integrated Report

Page 80 of 165

 

Class “A” Waters

 

Best usage of waters: Preservation of natural phenomena requiring special conditions, such as the Natural Barrier Reef at Buck Island, St. Croix and the Under Water Trail at Trunk Bay, St. John. These are outstanding natural resource waters that cannot be altered except towards natural conditions. No new or increased dischargers shall be permitted.

 

Quality criteria: Existing natural conditions shall not be changed. The biological condition shall be similar or equivalent to reference condition for biological integrity. In no case shall Class B water quality standards be exceeded.

 

 

(1)  Within 0.5 miles of the boundaries of Buck Island’s Natural Barrier Reef, St. Croix.

(2)   Trunk Bay, St. John.

 

Class “B” Waters.

 

Best usage of waters: For maintenance and propagation of desirable species of aquatic life (including threatened, endangered species listed pursuant to section 4 of the federal

Endangered Species Act and threatened, endangered and indigenous species listed pursuant Title 12, Chapter 2 of the Virgin Islands Code) and for primary contact recreation (swimming, water skiing, etc.). This Class allows minimal changes in structure of the biotic community and minimal changes in ecosystem function. Virtually all native taxa are maintained with some changes in biomass and/or abundance; ecosystem functions are fully maintained within the range of natural variability.

 

(1)  All other waters not classified as Class “A” or Class “C”.

 

(A)  Those Class “B” waters not covered by color and turbidity criteria in section 186-3(b)(11) of this chapter include:

 

(i) St. Thomas waters-Mandahl Bay (Marina), Vessup Bay, Water Bay, Benner Bay,

and the Mangrove Lagoon.

 

2010 USVI Integrated Report

Page 82 of 165

 

(ii) St. Croix waters-Carlton Beach, Good Hope Beach, Salt River Lagoon (Marina),

Salt River Lagoon (Sugar Bay), Estate Anguilla Beach, Buccaneer Beach, Tamarind

Reef Lagoon, Green Cay Beach and Enfield Green Beach.

 

(iii) All non-marine waters defined as all Virgin Islands waters shoreward of the mean

high-tide line.

 

(B)  All other Class “B” waters are covered by the color and turbidity criteria in section 186-3(b)(11)(B) of this subchapter.

 

 

 

Class “C” Waters

 

Best usage of waters: For maintenance and propagation of desirable species of aquatic life (including threatened and endangered species listed pursuant to section 4 of the federal Endangered Species Act and threatened, endangered and indigenous species listed pursuant Title 12, Chapter 2 of the Virgin Islands Code) and for primary contact recreation (swimming, water skiing, etc.). This Class allows for evident changes in structure of the biotic community and minimal changes in ecosystem function. Evident changes in structure due to loss of some rare native taxa; shifts in relative abundance of taxa (community structure) are allowed but sensitive-ubiquitous taxa remain common and abundant; ecosystem functions are fully maintained through redundant attributes of the system.

 

(1)  St. Thomas:

 

(A)St. Thomas Harbor beginning at Rupert Rock and extending to Haulover Cut.

 

(B) Crown Bay enclosed by a line from Hassel Island at Haulover Cut to Regis Point

at West Gregerie Channel.

 

(C)Krum Bay.

 

(2)  St. Croix:

 

(A) Christiansted Harbor from Fort Louise Augusta to Golden Rock, along the

waterfront and seaward to include the navigational channels and mooring areas.

 

(B) Frederiksted Harbor from La Grange to Fisher Street and seaward to the end of the

Frederiksted Pier.

 

(C)Hess Oil Virgin Islands Harbor (alternatively named HOVENSA Harbor).

 

(D) Martin-Marietta Alumina Harbor (alternatively named Port Alucroix or St. Croix

Renaissance Group Harbor).

 

(3)  St. John:

 

(A)Enighed Pond Bay

 

 

Evaluation of Internal Data

 

Due to issues with internal data collection, which included malfunctioning equipment, USEPA evaluated DPNR Basic Water Quality Monitoring Program data for FY2008 and 2009. USEPA determined there could be no reliance on any DO, pH, turbidity and temperature data reported from the field.

 

Therefore, DPNR were required to use only the beach monitoring data, data received during the 2010 Integrated Report data solicitation process announced on October 16, 2009, and analytical data for bacteria, TSS, and turbidity to conduct assessments for the 2010 Integrated Report.

 

DPNR evaluates all internal monitoring data to determine if the Data Quality Objectives outlined in the USVI Ambient Water Quality Monitoring Program Quality Assurance Project Plan are met. Once the data is determined to meet the required objectives the data is used to conduct the assessments for the reporting cycle.

 

The following agencies were contacted to request data during the Data Solicitation Period. The agencies were asked to submit all relative monitoring data for the monitoring period with the associated Quality Assurance Project Plan:

 

Kofi Boateng Associate State Director UVI-CES

Jeffrey Potent – USEPA Region 2

Rafe Boulon – National Park Service

Barbara S.P. Moore Director NOAA/National Undersea Research Program

Eric Hawk Section 7 Coordinator National Marine Fisheries Service

Richard Nemeth, Ph.D. Director UVI-CMES

Pedro Diaz – USGS/GSA Center

Edwin Muniz Supervisor USFW/PR Field Office

 

Once received the QAPP and data would be evaluated to determine if DPNR’s Data Quality Objectives were met. If the data is determined to be acceptable then the data would be used in the reporting cycle’s assessments. A rationale for any decision to not use any existing and readily available data and information would also be included in the Integrated Report. DPNR, however, did not receive data from external sources during the data solicitation period for the FY2008 and 2009 reporting cycle. 

The EPA is, finally, taking Protection of Coral Seriously

This past week the EPA was here, on island, in-force to collect issues and concerns from residents/citizens on how bad the Coral is? and what, we thought, was causing it?

 

Oddly enough, most people who stood up and spoke thought the Coral was, primarily, being damaged by run-off from the land.  This just goes to show how effectively our Waste Management Authority has hidden the extent of their criminal dumping of many hundreds of millions or perhaps, billions of gallons of raw, untreated sewage into our coastal water over the past 40 years. The EPA has had VIWMA in Federal Court over continuing dumping of raw, untreated sewage into our Coastal Waters since 1984; that’s 29 years.  This dumping of raw sewage is a felony under the Clean Water Act.  Guess what?  No one in Waster Management has been cited for contempt; no one has gone to jail and no one has been fired.  The EPA has allowed Waste Management to pollute, and continue to pollute without consequences for nearly 30 years.  This is disgusting and must stop.

 

Raw Sewage is the primary cause of Coral disease; the Coral (and Turtle Grass) can’t move out of the way like fish and turtles.  This raw sewage is full of nitrates which are one of the most deadly chemicals in the marine eco-system.  According the EPA’s own website, Nitrates are being tested in St Croix, but not in St Thomas or St John.  Why not?  The sewage is also full of bacteria and more-and-more people are getting staph infections from going swimming; these include anti-biotic resistant strains called MRSA and Flesh-Eating Bacteria.

 

If you have, or have had, one of these infections, send us an email (dave@greenervi.org).  We will keep your name confidential, but want to report to the EPA on the scope of the problem in the US Virgin Islands.  This is important; tell your friends.

 

The EPA put recycling and composting on its agenda three years ago.  In that time, the EPA has had many successes in Puerto Rico, but none here in the Virgin Islands.  Why?  Incompetent leadership in VIWMA!  Ms. Cornwall had been the Director of Waste Management for 26 years; remember Waste Management has been continuously in-court for the past 29 years for dumping raw sewage.  Ms. Cornwall should be fired without pension and should be wearing an Orange Jumpsuit.  What’s it going to take? A medical emergency?

 

Speaking of a medical emergency?  Does Waste Management test the water quality before and after dumping raw sewage?  If not, why not?  Perhaps, its DPNR.  Where can we, the people, go to get the results of that water quality testing?  Why are the testing results not available on a website?  Can it be that DPNR and Waste Management and WAPA do not want us to know the water quality testing results?  EPA, what about you?  Do your job and get our coastal water quality and air tested, and, insist on transparently releasing the results where people can get to them.

 

Ok.  The EPA has, finally, seen the light and, now, wants to do everything possible to save the remaining coral that we have.  They have sent people down here to find out how really bad it is.  They are seeing, first-hand, how corrupt CZM, DPNR, VIWMA, and WAPA are.  They are also getting an idea how ineffectual their own EPA people are here in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  This also applies to the NOAA people as well.  These people have allowed the dumping of raw sewage to continue for three decades; what was the penalty?  Fines, just fines, but no change in behavior.  All the while, the EPA could have asked the Federal Judge to hold Waste Management in contempt or they could have put Waste Management Leaders in jail.  Why didn’t they do something after 5 years, or 10, or even 20?  What is wrong with our government? It is supposed to protect us, not make us sick.

 

This have gotten so bad that the EPA is going to lead a Federal Inter-Agency Task Force to clean-up our waters and address the many pollution issues we have.  This is wonderful news; the Federal Bureaucracy has noticed us and has decided we need a clean-up.  Fine.  I call for the Privatization of VIWMA and WAPA.  Both of these organizations refuse to tell us, the people, what their salaries are, their pensions and other benefits.  Both of them pollute our air, water and coral.  Both of them are unaccountable.  They must both be put into receivership or made private or both.  A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) needs to be appointed to review/cancel their contracts and other arrangements.

 

For those who are concerned about our Coral Reefs, the EPA is distributing a new document, published in April 2012, called, “Field Manual for Coral Reef Assessments”.   It is in PDF format and here is the link on our website.  Alternatively, here is a link to the EPA website.

 

Dave Maxwell, GreenerVI

The Significance of NOAA’s Recent Proposal to Protect 66 Coral Species

December 20, 2012

by Megan Herzog

 

NOAA Coral 1

credit: NOAA Photo Library

 

Citing threats associated with climate change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) proposed on December 7, 2012 to list 66 coral species under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), and to reclassify two already-listed Caribbean coral species from “threatened” to “endangered.”  According to NOAA Fisheries, this was “the most complex listing process NOAA has ever undertaken.”  NOAA’s coral listing proposal is monumental for several reasons, including the scope of the scientific review, the unprecedented application of the ESA to marine invertebrates, and the federal government’s continued recognition of the adverse impacts of climate change on marine species.  If finalized, the coral listings could provide significant tools for marine conservation and climate adaptation.

 

This post begins with quick facts about corals, followed by a review of the process that led to the proposed coral listings; a brief summary of the proposal; the reasons why these proposed listings are particularly monumental; and a discussion of what the listings might mean for corals, marine conservation, and climate change adaptation.

 

Quick Facts About Corals

 

 

The Long Path to the Proposed Coral Listings

 

 

NOAA’s proposed listing is the result of the efforts of the Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit environmental organization particularly active in seeking ESA protections for climate-imperiled species [full disclosure: I worked at the Center as a law student several years ago].  The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition with NOAA Fisheries over three years ago to list 83 coral species under the ESA.  Here’s an excerpt from the 2009 petition (p. 2):

“The world’s corals and coral reef ecosystems are in crisis. Nearly 20% of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost, and approximately one-third of all zooxanthellate reefbuilding coral species is at risk of extinction . . . .  According to coral scientists, “reefs are likely to be the first major planetary-scale ecosystem to collapse in the face of climate changes now in progress”. [Citations omitted.]“

Notably, all coral species named in the Center’s petition are already designated as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (“IUCN”) and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (“CITES”), a voluntary international agreement signed by almost all countries—including the United States—to prevent the cross-border trade of endangered and threatened species.

In February 2010, NOAA made a so-called “90-day finding,” agreeing to review the status of 82 of the 83 candidate coral species included in the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition.  NOAA established a Biological Review Team (i.e., a group of federal government scientists with expertise in corals) to compile the best available scientific and commercial data in order to evaluate the extinction risk each candidate species faces.  Progress stalled, however.  The Center for Biological Diversity filed three notices of intent to sue the agency.  Finally, in 2011, as part of a stipulated settlement agreement approved by the federal District Court for the Northern District of California, NOAA agreed to submit a proposal regarding the 82 coral species by the end of 2012.

In April 2012, the Biological Review Team finally released a Status Review Report, which concluded that most of the evaluated species were “more likely than not” to go extinct by 2100 as a result of climate change impacts, barring any dramatic shifts in policy or technology.  On November 30th, in compliance with the court-ordered deadline, and based on the Status Review Report, NOAA announced its proposed decision to list 66 coral species and to reclassify elkhorn and staghorn corals from “threatened” to “endangered.”  (NOAA found that listing was not warranted for the other 16 coral species.)  The full proposal was published on December 7th at 50 C.F.R. pts. 223 & 224.

 

The Listing Proposal

 

Of the 66 coral species proposed for ESA protections, 59 are located in the Pacific Ocean (off the coasts of Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and U.S. Pacific Island Remote Area) and 7 are located in the Atlantic/Caribbean Ocean (off the coasts of Florida, Puerto Rico, Navassa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).  The species can also be found in 83 other countries.  Twelve species would be listed as endangered, and 54 would be listed as threatened.  The full list of corals proposed for ESA listing can be found on the NOAA Fisheries website.  In its proposal, NOAA identified 19 threats to corals, including ocean acidification and coral bleaching.

NOAA Coral 2

Example of coral bleaching (Credit: NOAA Photo Library)

 

Ocean acidification is a phenomenon resulting from the ocean’s absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).  Each year, the ocean absorbs an estimated one-quarter of the CO2 we emit into the atmosphere from activities like driving a car.  This absorption leads to shifts in the ocean’s chemical balance that cause the ocean to grow less alkaline (from pH 8.2 to 8.1).  Yes, this can also be phrased as “more acidic” but it will be a long time before seawater can be classified as an acid with a pH below 7.  Strikingly, the acidity of the ocean has increased by approximately 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and the ocean is predicted to be 150 percent more acidic by 2100.  A more acidic ocean, with a higher concentration of free hydrogen ions (H+), means a shift from solid calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in favor of dissolved bicarbonate (HCO3).  Calcium carbonate is an essential building block for the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms at the base of the food chain (e.g., oysters, clams, corals, and some plankton).  The decreased carbonate (CO32-) availability stresses calcifying organisms, making them more vulnerable to other stressors and endangering the entire marine food web.

 

Coral bleaching increases the frequency and severity of coral disease outbreaks.  As the temperature of the ocean rises, corals become stressed and expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues.  The algae expulsion causes the coral to turn white and appear “bleached.”  Bleached corals are not dead, but they are severely weakened and more susceptible to death.  You may recall the major coral bleaching event that occurred in 2005, when the United States lost half of its Caribbean coral reef population.  On a large scale, bleaching can result in fishery and ecosystem collapses.

 

Three Reasons Why NOAA’s Recent Coral Listing Proposal is Monumental

 

1) Invertebrate species like corals historically have received little attention under the ESA.  Prior to the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition, the possibility of listing numerous corals under the ESA was barely on NOAA’s radar.  Of the 82 candidate coral species, only one species (Montipora dilatata) was even previously identified by NOAA Fisheries as a Species of Concern (“Species of Concern” is an ESA designation given to species about which federal agencies have some concerns, but more data is needed about the species’ status and threats to support a listing).

Invertebrates generally, and marine invertebrates in particular, receive comparatively little conservation attention.  Indeed, out of the more than 1.2 million invertebrate species that exist on the planet (insects, spiders, shellfish, crabs, octopus, snails, etc.), only 226 species are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA (or <0.02 percent).  In comparison, 393 of the 50,000 or so known vertebrate species are listed (about 2 percent).  Put another way, vertebrates receive more than one hundred times the protection invertebrates receive.  Although vertebrates comprise only about 3 percent of the earth’s species, they represent a whopping 64 percent of ESA listings.

It is not terribly surprising that vertebrates are listed in disproportionately larger numbers than invertebrates like corals.   Furry, big-eyed, “megafauna” (think Pandas) tend to capture the public’s imagination more than gooey, prickly, spineless things (do you even know what an arthropod is?  Hint: they make up three-quarters of all animals on the planet.).  Although the ESA “Definitions” section explicitly states that the Act applies to any “mollusk, crustacean, arthropod or other invertebrate,” it is clear from the structure of the Act that the Act is an easier fit for terrestrial vertebrates like bald eagles and grizzly bears than corals.

The proposed coral listings represent a dramatic and unprecedented increase in attention to invertebrate conservation.  In fact, if NOAA ultimately decides to list all 66 coral species, the total number of ESA-listed invertebrates will increase by a third.  And because only 4 marine invertebrate species are currently protected under the ESA (elkhorn and staghorn corals plus 2 abalone species), the total number of ESA-listed marine invertebrates will increase almost 2000 percent.  In other words, NOAA’s proposal is big news for marine invertebrate conservation.

 

2) The corals are the latest example in a growing trend of climate-imperiled species listings.  NOAA’s proposal is also big news for climate-imperiled species conservation.  Few species currently are protected under the ESA because of climate change impacts.  Two of those species are elkhorn and staghorn corals—further noteworthy because they are the only two coral species currently listed under the ESA.  Elkhorn and staghorn corals were the first species to gain ESA protections based on global warming impacts.  Another climate-imperiled listed species is the polar bear, which was listed as threatened in 2008 due to its shrinking sea-ice habitat.  Notably, the polar bear, elkhorn, and staghorn listings are also examples of successful Center for Biological Diversity petitions (see here, here and here) and ensuing legal battles.  In the cases of several other listed species, such as some Florida butterfly species, the atlantic sturgeon, and the loggerhead sea turtle, federal agencies named climate change and/or sea-level rise as a factor contributing to the listing.  There are likely additional examples.  Overall the number of species listed explicitly because of climate change is still a small, but growing.

The listing trend suggests that greater numbers of climate-imperiled species may become candidates for ESA protections in the coming years.  Providing species with domestic legal protections based on the global problem of climate change is a significant policy trend for the United States, especially when contrasted with the federal government’s failure to enact greenhouse gas emission mitigation laws in response to the same global challenges.  It should be further noted that, to date, comparatively few terrestrial climate-imperiled species have yet received ESA attention (polar bears are classified as marine mammals); but this may change as terrestrial climate change impacts grow more dramatic and are increasingly documented.

 

3) The scope and complexity of the scientific review was exceptional.  NOAA’s status review of 82 coral species is by far the largest, most complex review NOAA has ever undertaken.  The second largest species review took place in the 1990s, when NOAA’s Biological Review Teams reviewed the status of all West Coast anadromous salmon species—representing 30 total species.  The salmon review resulted in NOAA listing 24 additional salmon and steelhead trout populations under the ESA, but even that massive effort pales in comparison to NOAA’s current proposal to list almost three times as many coral species.

NOAA’s coral species review is unprecedented not only because of its scope but also because of the distinct challenges involved in assessing the abundance of a species (i.e., the total number of species in a given area) when the species is both clonal and colonial.   Coral are clonal, meaning they can reproduce asexually by splitting into fragments, each of which develops into a clone of the original coral.  Coral are also colonial, meaning they build colonies through reproduction.  A coral colony can survive even if a portion of the colony dies.  Deciding how to measure coral abundance thus presented the Review Team with some challenging questions.  For the purposes of determining abundance, are genetically identical corals “distinct” individuals?  Or is an entire coral colony better understood as an individual? Identification was complicated by the fact that, even if a coral species can be identified on the ground, it is often difficult to distinguish between separate coral colonies.

Partially as a result of these complications, and further compounded by the fact that corals have complex life-cycles that are difficult to monitor in marine environments, abundance baseline and trend data essentially was non-existent for most of the corals NOAA examined (see Status Review Report at p. xxxiii).  As NOAA noted in its proposed rule (pp. 17-18), abundance estimates only existed for a few of the 82 candidate coral species, and much of the abundance data NOAA could obtain evaluated coral cover only at the genus (versus species) level.  NOAA therefore had to evaluate corals’ extinction risk against a backdrop of high scientific uncertainty. (For an account of how NOAA managed to calculate coral abundance given various scientific and practical limitations, see Status Review Report at chs. 2.1, 6-7).

The resulting proposal is thus a significant example of agency decision-making against the backdrop of a high level of scientific uncertainty.  Notably, this is exactly the type of decision-making that will be increasingly required in a climate-impacted world.   Given that climate change impacts are only predicted to increase, combined with the fact that climate change impacts are sweeping and broadly impact all species and ecosystems, it is likely that federal agencies will continue to face similar review challenges.  NOAA’s coral review likely is only the first of many large-scale ESA reviews that federal agencies will be required to undertake in a climate-impacted world.  Like the coral review, future climate-impacted species reviews may also concern species for which we have little baseline abundance data, which have received comparatively little scientific attention in the past, and which may not be easy fits for ESA procedures as currently applied and interpreted.

 

What ESA Protections for Coral Could Mean

 

NOAA Coral 3

Credit: NOAA Photo Library

 

Before discussing the proposal’s broader potential impacts, it is helpful to review the next steps in the listing process.  Before making a final listing determination, NOAA will seek comments on its proposal from the public (e.g., scientists, industry, and any other concerned parties) and other government agencies.  (You can submit written comments online via www.regulations.gov, entering the code: NOAA-NMFS-2010-0036).  NOAA plans to finalize the listings by December 2013.   Once a species is listed, the ESA allows NOAA to designate certain geographical areas that are essential to the species’ conservation as critical habitat, and identify regulations necessary for the species’ conservation.

NOAA also may develop a recovery plan to put the listed species on the path to recovery.  NOAA additionally is required to consult with other agencies whose actions may jeopardize the species’ existence; before another federal agency can take any action that may adversely affect a listed species, such as issuing a permit or authorizing funding, ESA § 7 requires the agency to obtain a biological opinion that such action is “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any threatened or endangered species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat.”  Additionally, NOAA may issue permits for activities that might incidentally cause a take of an endangered species (under the ESA § 9, taking means “”to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.”)  Commercial activity involving an endangered species is forbidden, and NOAA may extend these protections to threatened species, as well.

 

If the 66 coral species are listed, what could we expect?

 

1) Critical habitat designations for the corals could be very large.   If the critical habitat designated for the other three climate-imperiled marine species already listed under the ESA is any indication, critical habitat designations for 66 coral species could amount to thousands or even tens of thousands of square miles of ocean.  The polar bear listing coincided with the largest critical habitat designation in history: 187,000 square miles of Alaska are protected.  Elkhorn and staghorn corals benefit from a smaller, but still significant critical habitat designation of 3000 square miles of marine habitat.

NOAA has been swift to offer assurances that listing coral species under the ESA likely will not prohibit fishing, diving, or other marine activities.  NOAA also reminded the public in a recent press release that any critical habitat designations would take into account potential impacts on the fishing and shipping industries, in keeping with President Obama’s directive against burdensome regulations:

“Earlier this year, the President directed that any potential future designations of critical habitat carefully consider all public comments on relevant science and economic impact, including those that suggest methods for minimizing regulatory burdens. Therefore, any potential future critical habitat designation in connection with today’s proposed listing will include a full analysis of economic impact, including impact on jobs, and to the extent permitted by law, adopt the least burdensome means . . . . NOAA will work with stakeholders to minimize any potential impacts of possible future action on the economy and jobs and, in particular, on construction, fishing, farming, shipping, and other important sectors [emphasis added].”

Still, in combination with the ESA’s section 7 “jeopardy” clause, any coral critical habitat designations could be quite powerful. Which brings us to the next point….

 

2) The ESA’s “jeopardy” clause could have broad implications for water pollution, coastal construction, and more. As discussed above, ESA § 4 critical habitat designations represent one of the meatier ESA protections when combined with the section 7 “jeopardy” provision.  Under ESA § 7, federal agencies must consult with NOAA Fisheries prior to taking any action that may “result in the destruction or adverse modification of” critical habitat, and NOAA Fisheries may suggest reasonable alternatives to mitigate the action’s impacts.  As Ryan Kelly of the Center for Ocean Solutions argued in his paper Spineless Wonders (19 Penn State Envtl. L.R. 1 (2011)):

“[I]f marine species’ critical habitat includes the water itself, as it logically must, section 7 consultation promises both to become more analytically complex (given the upstream-downstream dynamic) and further reaching, impacting a larger number of federal actions along the coast. Some of the many routine federal agency actions could constitute an adverse modification include approving and issuing water quality standards under the [Clean Water Act (CWA)] (and perhaps NPDES permits), drilling/ mineral extraction, dredging/filling under section 404 of the CWA, and the management of commercial fishing under the Magnusson-Stevens Act [citations omitted].”

In a recent press statement, Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity noted that the federal government ultimately could use the corals listings to protect corals from overfishing.  According to Sakashita, “Other local threats that need attention include water pollution, dredging, or coastal construction that impacts coral habitat.”

So far, elkhorn and staghorn corals’ critical habitat has not presented notable controversies; but, as Kelly suggests, this is most likely because federal agencies “have not yet appreciated that they are subject to the requirement.”  In the future, marine conservation advocates could harness critical coral habitat as a tool to obtain additional protections for marine and coastal environments.

 

3) NOAA’s traditional interpretation of “take” may be challengedKelly notes that the larvae of marine invertebrates present some interesting questions in the context of ESA “take” provisions: “[B]ecause each adult animal may produce billions of nearly microscopic, translucent larvae that float for hundreds or thousands of kilometers . . . . could a person be subject to civil and criminal penalties for unwittingly killing a handful of nearly invisible larvae during a day at the beach?”  Kelly recognizes this as an extreme hypothetical; but the underlying tension remains: ESA “take” prohibitions are an uneasy fit for corals.  If the 66 coral species are listed, NOAA ultimately may enact regulations specific to their protection.

As NOAA continues to list greater numbers of climate-imperiled marine animals under the ESA, it will be interesting to see how all of these challenges play out.  In the meantime, National Geographic has posted beautiful photos of some of the candidate corals.  We can be grateful that the devastating effects of ocean acidification and coral bleaching are receiving increased regulatory attention.

 

[Post updated on: December 21, 2012; thank you to University of Maine School of Law Professor Dave Owen for providing valuable contributions regarding the status of climate-imperiled species listings.]

 

Privatization of VIWMA and WAPA

From: Susan Wolterbeek [mailto:susanremy@vipowernet.net]
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2013 4:38 PM
To: ‘Enck, Judith’
Cc: ‘Mark Lichtenstein’; ‘Pabst, Douglas’
Subject: An interim solution
Importance: High

 

Dear Judith:

 

Thank you for our lengthy conversation Tuesday. Since the EPA does not want to get involved in Receivership, I have two concepts which will achieve our immediate goals of learning the true conditions of our air, land and coastal waters, and then formulating a plan to protect people and coral.

 

Until now, despite court orders and requests by the EPA, VIWMA and DPNR are still not telling citizens the truth about the dumping of raw sewage and turning over water test data, etc., as well as air quality data.  DPNR often will not post sewage warnings on impaired beaches, because, according to Jamal Nielson of DPNR, “the hotels don’t like them to post about sewage”.  The non-compliance reports filed are never complete, and sometimes are missing altogether. We only know this when the illegal dumping is caught and reported by our newspapers, and there are no non-compliance reports for those dates. We who live here do not know where it is safe to swim, fish, snorkel. We do not know what to say to our islands’ visitors.

 

EPA FUNDED DATA GATHERER/WATCH DOG/LIASION

 

        As you know, we at GreenerVI.org have been working for the past 3 years to stop our local utilities from polluting VI coastal waters. Here is the plan: The EPA funds a project, starting immediately, for GreenerVI.org to gather and publish relevant data from DPNR, VIWMA, WAPA, EPA, NOAA etc. in regard to the environment. In a letter to our Governor and the Senate, the EPA asks the local agencies to comply with GreenerVI requests for information. In this way, we can review prior Court Orders and verify that VIWMA and WAPA are in compliance, according to their own documents. We can see what is being measured in water tests, and what is not.

 

According to the EPA, http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/305b/upload/1998_05_07_305b_96report_vi.pdf,  for example, DPNR does not test for “phosphorus, nitrogen, and suspended solids” in St. Thomas or St. John, yet those tests are critical to coral, as well as people. GreenerVI.org will publish air and water quality results, and have a comprehensive, interactive website, so that members of the public, as well as agencies, will all have a voice, and get answers for once!  In this way we can be a liaison to the people, sharing information. I know that thousands of us will volunteer our time, energy, tools and money to help clean up our islands, if given the chance. Dave Maxwell had the top level clearance in Intelligence at the Pentagon before he retired. He will manage the information and the website. I am a former NYC prosecutor and attorney for the State of NH, and will review and report on all legal issues and prepare documents and reports.

 

This EPA funded project will enable the people of the VI to finally be given the information they are legally entitled to know, and this will help us all to unite in our quest to help preserve our natural resources.

 

 

  1. We need to know where it is not safe for people to go in the water, particularly for babies, the elderly and those of compromised health.
  2. We need to learn the present condition of the remaining coral and turtle grass.
  3.  We need the polluting to be stopped by VIWMA and WAPA, and by the cruise ships blowing their stacks-especially Oasis of the Seas.
  4. We need to start a plan for the mountain of Red Mud in St. Croix-there is a company which can recycle the commercial arsenic, etc., and all the other poisons, with a by- product of water resistant/waterproof bricks to be used for building materials.

 

 

Judith, if you would also ask the CDC to inquire as to water- born infections treated in the USVI for the past 3 years, then we will have a much better idea of what is going on in our territorial waters. A friend of mine was being treated for a staph infection in the ER-along with 6 others at the same time. There are many people who have been in danger of losing their limbs due to staph infections, especially MRSA and flesh eating bacteria. We need to know the truth, and the CDC will respond to the EPA, but not to us.

 

The other idea worth exploring, particularly if you are meeting with the Governor, is to see if he will CONSENT TO PRIVATIZATION OF WAPA AND VIWMA- This would enable Mark Lichtenstein and Sue Parten to go full steam ahead with all of their plans, and allow NREL and DOI to develop the best solution for our energy needs, as quickly and efficiently as possible. The key is that the selection of the contractors, engineers, etc., is not in the hands of the local government.  I earnestly believe that if the EPA makes clear to the Governor that this will enable the VI to get our utilities to stop polluting and crippling us with costs, that he will agree. With such a Consent Agreement, we can save our coral, as well as our health and economy.

 

I look forward to seeing you on Monday, Judith, and meeting with Doug on Wednesday. Cheers, Susan

WAPA Spewing Sticky Soot; Polluting our Air, Water and Corals

12-5-10 WAPA spewing sticky soot

Stench of Government Indifference – DailyNews September 2012

11-7-12 GreenerVI.org v. WAPA and VIWMA 001

Coral reef ecosystem stressors in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Coral reef ecosystem stressors in the U.S. Virgin Islands

http://coris.noaa.gov/about/eco_essays/virgin_islands/eco_stressors.html

Coral reefs are among the World’s most delicate and vulnerable ecosystems.  A number of events and circumstances can effect them drastically resulting in degradation and even death.  Scientists who study coral reefs have coined the term “stressors” to describe these events and circumstances.  Some of these stressors are thought to be anthropologic in origin (pollution, ship damage, over-fishing, etc), while others are regarded as natural (earthquakes, tropical storms, disease, etc).  The number of stressors effecting coral reefs varies, but the following have been clearly identified in the U.S. Virgin Islands:

Diseases

Corals are susceptible to a number of different diseases.  Four kinds of coral diseases have so far been recognized in the USVI: black band, yellow-blotch, white plague, and dark spot (Nemeth, et al., 2003).  Very little is known about the causative agents of these diseases, but microbial pathogens have been identified in at least five cases.  As with coral bleaching, the recent increases in severity of coral diseases may be a consequence of global warming.

After the dramatic 2005 bleaching event in the Caribbean, corals also suffered significant losses due to a post-bleaching disease outbreak. There was a greater than 2,000 percent increase in disease lesions and nearly 800% increase in denuded skeleton caused by disease over pre-bleaching levels. Mortality was primarily from white plague and resulted in the loss of 52 percent live coral cover from more than 30 acres of coral reef (Rothenberger et al., 2008).

Coastal development and runoff

Coastal sedimentation resulting from heavy rainfall and excessive runoff has been a natural occurrence in the Virgin Islands since the Holocene sea level rise.  However, the causes of coastal sedimentation have clearly shifted from natural to anthropogenic origin.  In the U.S. Virgin Islands this increase in runoff and the resulting increased sedimentation can be attributed to increased population with the resulting need for more housing, roads, and other development.  This is particularly true in St. John and St. Thomas where steep mountain slopes allow rapid runoff (Brooks, et al., 2007).  Nemeth and Nowlis (2001) have pointed out a direct relationship between shoreline development in St. Thomas and increased sedimentation in Caret Bay during periods of heavy rainfall.

Coastal pollution

As in other Caribbean islands, coastal pollution has long been a major problem in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Both biological and chemical (industrial) pollution are evident.  Bacterial contamination of coastal waters is a primary problem caused by numerous point and nonpoint sources.  Heavy rainfall sometimes overloads existing sewage systems resulting in severe pollution of coastal waters.  In 2003 there were eighty days in which beaches were closed because of biological contamination.  In St. Croix, a rum factory discharges waste water directly into the sea forming a plume which can be traced for about 10 km from its point of origin (Jeffrey, et al., 2005)

 

How Pollution Affects Coral Reefs

http://celebrating200years.noaa.gov/visions/coral/side.html

 

In the coming years, remote coral reef ecosystems will be impacted primarily by global environmental changes. Reefs in close proximity to human populations, however, will also be faced with local stresses, including poor water quality from land-based sources of pollution.

Land-based Pollution Sources

 

Runoff from this pipe in the U.S. Virgin Islands spews directly into the ocean only a few hundred yards from reefs. Click image for larger view and image credit.


Pollution from land-based sources is a primary cause of coral reef degradation throughout the world. In the Caribbean, for example, approximately 80 percent of ocean pollution originates from activities on land. As human populations expand in coastal areas, development alters the landscape, increasing runoff from land. Runoff often carries large quantities of sediment from land-clearing, high levels of nutrients from agricultural areas and sewage outflows, and pollutants such as petroleum products and pesticides. These land-based sources of pollution threaten coral reef health.

Excess nutrients result in poor water quality, leading to decreased oxygen and increased nutrients in the water (eutrophication). This can lead to enhanced algal growth on reefs, crowding out corals and significantly degrading the ecosystem. In addition, sediment deposited onto reefs smothers corals and interferes with their ability to feed and reproduce. Finally, pesticides interfere with coral reproduction and growth. Sewage discharge and runoff may also introduce pathogens into coral reef ecosystems. For example, Aspergillus sydowii has been associated with a disease in sea fans, and Serratia marcescens, has been linked to white pox, another coral disease.

How Pollution Affects Coral Reefs

 

Not Following Court Order – Continues to Dump Raw Sewage

From: Susan Wolterbeek [mailto:susan@greenervi.org]

Sent: Monday, April 04, 2011 2:51 PM
To: ‘Gonzalez.EduardoJ@epamail.epa.gov’
Cc: ‘Feinmark.Phyllis@epamail.epa.gov’; ‘SueParten@aol.com’
Subject:

 

Dear Eduardo:

 

Since the court has just given you a week to report on whether 50,000 is enough for a pump repair emergency fund, I hope the following information may be of help. In order to state the facts, you would want to let the court know about all the pumps which have broken down since last year, and then it follows logically that you would want and need to tell the court that VIWMA is in contempt of the 3/18/10 Order.  In looking at the utter contempt for which VIWMA regards federal district court orders, a good place to start is with this 5/4/2010 letter to Carl Soderberg. I have added updates in blue:

 

     Susan K. Wolterbeek, Esq.     St. Thomas, VI 00803-6658      (340) 714-2233      susanremy@vipowernet.net

 

                                                                                      May 4, 2010

Dear Director Soderberg:

                                          I am writing to you as a stateside attorney, former Assistant District Attorney for the State of New York, and a resident of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thank you for your response. It appears from the Federal District Court Order, your response, May Adams Cornwall’s statement to the Press and lack of public announcements, that 4 specific orders are not being followed:

 

  1. “that the VIWMA shall comply with the public notification requirements listed in the Territorial  Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits.” It was my understanding from speaking with Mr. Casey that the announcements should be given on all three islands. There is a DEP Press Release dated February 5, 2010 monitoring a raw sewage discharge at Frenchtown Boat Ramp in St. Thomas, but there were no DEP Press releases in January, February or March stating VIWMA was dumping 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage per day, and that people should stay out of those waters. When VIWMA again dumped raw sewage from April 24-27th, there was no DEP Press release or any other warning I could find on VIWMA or DPNR websites, the VI Daily News, or television.  The only announcements that I have seen are the VIWMA commercials saying they are “preserving paradise”.

Note: VIWMA and DPNR are still willfully refusing to comply with public notification requirements, and NO ONE is making them comply. According to Jamal Neilsen Media Relations Coordinator of DPNR, the hotels do not want them to post warnings, and it would not be fair if DPNR only posted on non-hotel beaches. Mr. Neilsen said tourists could learn of the discharges by listening to the radio when announcements are given. The few press releases given in 2011 were each only printed once, not in the prescribed form, and not published every day there were on-going bypasses. Thus, unless a person happened to read the paper on the one day it was published, even with on-going bypasses, for weeks or months, that person would have no idea there was an on-going bypass.  You could send a copy of the specific, required Public Notice, attached, and ask the Editor in Chief of the St. Croix Avis and VI Daily News whether they have printed such notices since March 18, 2010, and to send you copies of any bypass information they printed.

  1.  “that two auxiliary diesel pumps shall be operational on St. Croix, the first by Wednesday, March 24, 2010, and the second by Friday, March 26, 2010.

You stated in your response; “Regarding the pumping stations in St. Croix, we learned yesterday that two auxiliary diesel pumps at LBJ are currently not operational.”

 

Surely there was a certification by VIWMA saying they were operational. My letter to Mr. Soderberg prompted him to inquire and to find out, surprise, surprise, that the above pumps WERE NOT operational. What happened then? Were they ever fixed?

 

  1. In an attempt to comply with orders concerning the Figtree pump station, Mr. Aubin certified that VIWMA took a house pump from the LBJ station. Doesn’t that then put the LBJ station at risk? By prior order of August 31, 2003, all house pumps must be operational at all times. Is LBJ currently operational with a house pump and back-up pumps? In light of your above response, LBJ appears at risk.

On Friday April 16, 2010, the VI Daily News reported that Waste Management Authority   Executive Director May Adams Cornwall stated “The LBJ pump station is also down one pump.” and “”We do not have expectations to see anything like what happened at Figtree to happen on any of the islands again,” Cornwall said. It happened 8 days later.

Indeed, according to a statement by VIWMA released on 4/27/10, “because of a broken force main”, VIWMA again dumped raw sewage over Long Reef from 4/24 through 4/27  “to reduce the impact to the adjacent neighborhood and prevent sewer overflows in Christiansted town and surrounding areas.”

 

I later learned that from 4-28-2010 until at least 5-3-2010, LBJ broke down and sewage was again diverted over Long Reef. Please note that there was no Non-Compliance Report of this event in those reports I forwarded to you from Mr. Casey. LBJ had a broken force main September 8-11th, as well. Also note from the Non-Compliance Discharge Report List that  Barren Spot had pump failure from September5-8th, just before the LBJ force main break.

This year, from 1-27-2011 until 2-9-2011 13 days of bypassing occurred during the installation of LBJ’s new force main, (written up as 10 days, 11.5 hours).

 

  1. Steve Aubin, Chief Operating Officer certified to the Federal District Court on March 23, 2010, that St. Thomas’ Cancryn Pump Station, the island’s main station, has pumps that are operational and back-up pumps that can manage the effluent flow.

However, on Friday April 16, 2010, the VI Daily News reported that Waste Management Authority   Executive Director May Adams Cornwall stated that the Cancryn Station “has been without a working pump for close to nine months, Cornwall said. A contractor is diverting flow around Cancryn to another station while cleaning takes place. The station should be back up and running by the end of April, Cornwall said.”  Cornwall’s statement shows Aubin’s certification in March to be invalid.

 

From 2/24/2011-3/2/2011 there were Force Main Breaks at both Hovensa and Fig Tree Pump Stations. Further, on January 4, 2011 the Weymouth Rhymer Pump Station had a Force Main Break, which is described in duration as ONGOING. Is this station still bypassing, today? Did it stop? When? Where is the Non-Compliance Report?

 

You state that the EPA is concerned that VIWMA has been dumping 1.2 million gallons per day of untreated sewage into our coastal waters. DPNR, DEP and the local EPA knew about this in January, and you did not stop it, and the local agencies have allowed this dumping to happen, on and off,  for decades.  Even after I reported it to the EPA, on February 6, 2010, all of the above agencies allowed VIWMA to dump a further 46.8 million gallons of raw sewage until mid-March, 2010.

 

Director Soderberg, what follows is a rough analysis I have prepared since your email on Friday, focusing on environmental impacts, rather than threat to human health. However, it should be noted that VIWMA had been again diverting wastewater flow to sea over Long Reef from 4/24/10-4/27/10 and advised “anyone with a compromised immune system to continue to avoid Long Reef until the Department of Planning and Natural Resources declares the beach safe for water activity.”

 

Then there was the Ironman Triatholon a few days later.  Instead of having the race at another location, the athletes in the Iron Man Triathalon on Sunday, May 2, 2010 swam in a long race in Christiansted Harbor, an area affected by that dumping, as well as the previous 72 million gallon dumping of raw sewage. Were the athletes told of the health risk? Do you understand that these athletes are now at risk of getting many horrible diseases, some of which are life threatening, and starting epidemics, such as cholera and typhus?  The VI government, VIWMA, Board of Tourism, Health Department, DPNR, DEP, EEP and EPA allowed this race to occur, did not warn the competitors, and is still doing nothing to alert the athletes, the CDC, the current tourists and residents, etc.

 

VI Waste Management Authority (formerly DPW) has been dumping raw sewage into coastal waters of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John for decades.

 

To deal with the many violations of the waste management authority dumping untreated sewage, the local agencies entered into a Consent Agreement, in 1990, which is currently before the Federal District Court of the US Virgin Islands.

 

In the 1990 consent agreement, DPNR and DPW, now VIWMA, were to have developed a comprehensive program for the prevention, control, and abatement of all pollution in the Territory, from that time forward, so that these emergency dumpings of raw sewage would never happen again. Nevertheless, these illegal dumpings have occurred many, many times since 1990.

 

Based on the findings of facts and the conclusions of law, the 1990 Consent Order determined that the numerous deficiencies plaguing the waste treatment facility and the plethora of violations generated thereby unreasonably expose the public and the environment to substantial endangerment.

 

Dumping untreated sewage on a reef kills Coral and adversely modifies Coral’s Critical Habitat

 

Even the Consent Order of 20 years ago acknowledged that dumping raw sewage into coastal waters negatively impacts the marine ecosystem, in addition to imperiling human health.

 

Paragraphs 17 and 18 of the Consent Decree dated December 27,1990 state:

 

17.  DPNR records document an extensive chronology of unpermitted discharges of untreated sewage into the waters on all three islands.

 

18. DPNR took official notice of the fact that sewage pollution degrades the environment and imperils human health. Sewage contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous that when discharged into the marine environment can induce massive growths of algae. The decomposition of this algae consumes oxygen and can cause the level of dissolved oxygen in the water to be below that which can support many species of aquatic organisms.

 

These [sewage induced] algae blooms and the growth of other organisms then often stifle corals or outcompete them for space (Jones & Endean, 1976). In addition, direct sedimentation can smother a shoreline reef, and staghorn and elkhorn coral are particularly sensitive to sediment as they are among the least effective of the reefbuilding corals at trapping and removing sediment from their surface.

 

Untreated sewage increases the water’s turbidity, which, in turn, obscures the light on which corals thrive. Light deprivation ultimately will starve a coral, which is dependent on its symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) to generate food photosynthetically (UVI, 2001; Bryant et al., 1998). NOAA website.)

 

Pursuant to 73 FR 72210, “Elkhorn and staghorn coral require relatively clear, well-circulated water and are almost entirely dependent upon sunlight for nourishment …”

 

President Clinton’s Executive Order 13089 mandates that the federal agencies protect Coral Reefs

 

Section 2. Policy. All Federal agencies whose actions may affect U.S. coral reef ecosystems shall: (a) identify their actions that may affect U.S. coral reef ecosystems; (b) utilize their programs and authorities to protect and enhance the conditions of such ecosystems; and (c) to the extent permitted by law, ensure that any actions they authorize, fund, or carry out will not degrade the conditions of such ecosystems.

 

Section 3. Federal Agency Responsibilities . In furtherance of section 2 of this order, Federal agencies whose actions affect U.S. coral reef ecosystems, shall, subject to the availability of appropriations, provide for implementation of measures needed to research, monitor, manage, and restore affected ecosystems, including, but not limited to, measures reducing impacts from pollution, sedimentation, and fishing.

 

To the extent not inconsistent with statutory responsibilities and procedures, these measures shall be developed in cooperation with the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) and fishery management councils and in consultation with affected States, territorial, commonwealth, tribal, and local government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, the scientific community, and commercial interests.

 

Did the EPA contact the Coral Reef Task Force, and let them know VIWMA was dumping close to a protected National Park Marine Reserve, and upstream from Salt River, a new National Park?

 

At the 2008 USCRTF meeting in Kona, Hawaii, the USCRTF celebrated its 10-year anniversary and issued a renewed call to action to conserve and protect coral reefs, noting the severity of the threats facing coral reefs and the immediate need to take action:

 

It is clear that the USCRTF, with partners, must significantly increase our collective effort to

address the factors over which we can exercise control. The USCRTF must take immediate

action to respond to these threats and, in turn, seek to sustain our coral reef ecosystems and the communities that depend upon them….Science has demonstrated that reef communities can recover when they are protected and stressors are removed. Urgent action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime, precious time for coral reef ecosystems can be secured through increased protection from land and marine pollution, unsustainable fishing, development, and other stressors, all of which we know can damage coral health. The time to act is now.

 

Buck Island Reef National Monument is a No Take Marine Reserve, and the flow of raw sewage flows down toward Salt River National Park

 

The dumping of 72 million gallons of raw sewage over Long Reef is out of the LBJ pump station, in close proximity to the Buck Island Reef National Monument, and is upstream from the Salt River National Park. Did the EPA, or any local agency, contact the National Park Service in January? Has the EPA contacted NPS yet? NPS established fully protected marine reserves at Buck Island Reef National Monument in order to restore fish populations and reef ecosystems and protect corals from physical damage.

Buck Island Reef National Monument was established to preserve “one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea.” The park is one of a few fully marine protected areas in the National Park System. The 176-acre island and surrounding coral reef ecosystem support a large variety of native flora and fauna, including the hawksbill turtle and brown pelican.

State-Federal Partnerships have been made on Marine Reserves and Ecosystem Based

Research. “No-take” marine reserves have been established at Buck Island Reef National Monument, to restore and protect marine ecosystems and species they support from overfishing and anchor damage. The National Park Service has a clear scientific mandate to evaluate the performance and potential restorative impacts of these new reserves.

 

Fortunately, as reported by the reserve, it appears to be upstream from the effluent flow. Therefore, hopefully, it appears there was no damage to the reserve. However, the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve is downstream and around a corner from the effluent flow. 

 

Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve was created in 1992 as part of the National Park System. The National Park Service and the Government of the United States Virgin Islands jointly manage this 1,015-acre park. The area’s blend of sea and land holds some of the largest remaining mangrove forests in the Virgin Islands, as well as coral reefs and a submarine canyon. It’s said to be the place where Christopher Columbus first encountered the native people of this hemisphere and is a truly special place for both its ecological and historical significance.

 

Salt River National Park has received a $1.25 million federal grant to design a marine education and research center on St. Croix. The Assistant Secretary of the Interior of Insular Areas Anthony M. Babuata visited St. Croix, and presented the grant to the National Parks Service.

 

Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral and their Critical Habitat are protected under the Endangered Species Act

 

Acropora Fact SheetAcropora Fact Sheet

 

Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral and their Critical Habitat live in the coastal waters surrounding the U.S. Virgin Islands, and they are protected under the Endangered Species Act.  NOAA has devoted many millions of federal dollars to programs which preserve these Corals, and the Nature Conservancy, working with NOAA,  has three project areas in St Croix coastal waters, recolonizing coral.

 

Coral reefs are among the most diverse, biologically complex and valuable ecosystems on Earth. Often called rainforests of the sea, coral reefs provide economic and environmental services to millions of people as valuable areas of natural beauty, sources of food, jobs and revenues, recreation and tourism and shoreline protection.

 

“The United States has a significant national interest in protecting its coral reef ecosystems. The area of coral ecosystems within 10 fathom and 100 fathom depth contours respectively in tropical and subtropical water of the United States is 36,813 sq km and 143,059 sq km” (Rohmann et al. 2005). The majority of U.S. coral reefs making up the referenced areas are within State and Territorial waters.

 

 

Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles and Leatherback Turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act

 

Green Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles reside in the waters surrounding St. Croix, and do move around, so this 72 million gallons of raw sewage is now in their home. Green Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles depend upon turtle grass and sponges for food, but cannot eat if their food is tainted by raw sewage. Leatherback turtles, also protected by the ESA, swim in and lay their nests of eggs on the shoreline of several areas in St. Croix.

 

VIWMA may not dump raw sewage where it will adversely affect Threatened or Endangered Species

 

Solid waste disposal facilities or practices are not allowed to cause or contribute to the taking of an endangered or threatened species (40 C.F.R. § 257.3-2). That statute states in part:

 

§ 257.3–2 Endangered species.

(a)  Facilities or practices shall not cause or contribute to the taking of any endangered or threatened species of plants, fish, or wildlife.

(b) The facility or practice shall not result in the destruction or adverse modification of the critical habitat of endangered or threatened species as identified in 50 CFR part 17.

 

Sewage sludge may not be placed where it is likely to adversely affect a threatened or endangered species (40 C.F.R. § 503.24).

 

§ 503.24 Management practices.

(a)  Sewage sludge shall not be placed on an active sewage sludge unit if it is likely to adversely affect a threatened or endangered species listed under section 4 of the Endangered Species Act or its designated critical habitat.

 

 

DPNR, DEP, DEE, CZM and VIWMA  May All Be Found in Violation of the ESA

 

VIWMA must face the consequences of its actions and fully comply now with Federal District Court orders. Neither DPNR, DEE  nor the DEP stopped the dumping either, until 2 months later, at 1.2 million gallons per day.  These agencies have been violating federal laws and their own mandates for decades, and no one has been prosecuted for these illegal actions. Unless strong criminal prosecutions are brought, the dumping will continue

 

The Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources is a member of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, as is Governor deJongh. Clearly, DPNR is not following its mission, neither is it enforcing federal laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, nor following the mandates, resolutions or local action strategies of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. Instead, DPNR, by choosing not to actively enforce, is actively condemning the endangered species.

 

Janice Hodge, Director of the Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management, is a member of the U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee, whose mission is:

 

As official representatives of our Governors for the coral reef initiative, we will strive to elevate awareness of coral reef issues, develop local capacity and partnerships; implement actions in a coordinated regional voice; develop policy and advocate for jurisdictional needs; and coordinate bottom-up, locally-grown initiatives to ensure long-term sustainable use of coral reefs.

 

        CZM also has a duty and obligation to enforce and uphold federal laws and protect endangered species and their habitat.

 

The Division of Environmental Protection is responsible for environmental protection and the enforcement of environmental laws and regulations in the US Virgin Islands. The Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) receives funding and has been delegated responsibility for environmental protection by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the auspices of  Region 2.

 

The mandates of the Division of Environmental Protection are to protect and conserve the natural resources of the Government of the US Virgin Islands; air, water and land upon which life depends, and the health, comfort, and repose of the public.

 

The Endangered Species Act affects regulation under the Clean Water Act. The Services have a policy to ensure coordination with State Agencies for gathering information in implementing the consultation program. [59 FR 34274-34275 (July 1, 1994)]  In early 1999 EPA, FWS, and NMFS published a draft Memorandum of Agreement regarding enhanced coordination under the Clean Water Act and the ESA. 64 Fed. Reg. 2741-57 (January 15, 1999).

 

The EPA is in Violation of the Endangered Species Act

 

During the 2 month period of dumping, was the EPA working closely with NMFS and FWS? Did those agencies know, and allow this dumping to continue?

 

Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies to satisfy two standards in carrying out their programs. Federal agencies must ensure that their activities are not likely to: (1) jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species, or (2) result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat.

 

Section 7(a)(4) requires Federal agencies to confer with the Services on actions likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any species proposed for listing or result in the destruction or adverse modification of any proposed critical habitat.

 

Thus, the EPA, which has given a permit to VIWMA, and regulates VIWMA, is required to insure that VIWMA’s actions are not likely to jeopardize the Corals and Turtles in question, or adversely modify their Critical Habitat. Has anyone been researching the effect this raw sewage has had on Long Reef?

 

If the EPA knew on or before January 17, 2010, that federal agency had an affirmative duty to consult with NMFS, before the dumping. Once the dumping commenced, the EPA had an obligation to stop VIWMA, immediately, pursuant to the ESA, President Clinton’s Executive Order, and the “no-take” designation of the Buck Island Reef National Monument marine reserve.

 

The NMFS Director, Office of Protected Resources can pursue the need to consult with the action agency (EPA). The Services cannot force an action agency to consult. However, if the proposed action results in take of a listed fish or wildlife species, the matter should be referred to either the FWS Law Enforcement Division and the Office of the Solicitor, or the NMFS Office of Law Enforcement and the Office of General Counsel – depending upon which species are

involved.

 

Additionally, if the action agency requests consultation after-the-fact, that

consultation cannot eliminate any section 9 liability for take that has occurred already.

 

Violating the Endangered Species Act has Civil and Criminal Penalties

SEC. 11. 16 U.S.C. 1540 (a) CIVIL PENALTIES.—(1) Any person who knowingly violates any provision of this Act, may be assessed a civil penalty by the Secretary of not more than $25,000 for each violation. Each violation shall be a separate offense.

Public Law 100-478, enacted October 7, 1988, (102 Stat 2306) included the following provisions:

  • Redefines the definition of “person” to clarify law applies to municipal corporations.

The court shall hear such action on the record  made before the Secretary and shall sustain his action if it is supported by substantial evidence on the record considered as a whole.

 

(b) CRIMINAL VIOLATIONS.—(1) Any person who knowingly violates any provision of this Act, of any permit or certificate issued hereunder, or of any regulation issued in order to implement subsection (a)(1)(A), (B), (C), (D), (E), or (F); (a)(2)(A), (B), (C), or (D),

(c), (d) (other than a regulation relating to recordkeeping, or filing of reports), (f), or (g) of section 9 of this Act shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both. Any person who knowingly violates any provision of any other regulation issued under this Act shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $25,000 or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.

 

(e) ENFORCEMENT.—(1) The provisions of this Act and any regulations or permits issued pursuant thereto shall be enforced by the Secretary, the Secretary of the Treasury, or the Secretary of the Department in which the Coast Guard is operating, or all such Secretaries. Each such Secretary may utilize by agreement, with or without reimbursement, the personnel, services, and facilities of any other Federal agency or any State agency for purposes of enforcing this Act.

 

(2) The judges of the district courts of the United States and the United States magistrates may within their respective jurisdictions, upon proper oath or affirmation showing probable cause, issue such warrants or other process as may be required for enforcement of this Act and any regulation issued thereunder.

 

Conclusion

 

The federal and local agencies must consult with NMFS, NPS and the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and ensure that VIWMA has all its equipment working, now, before even more raw sewage is dumped on a reef. NMFS and DOI would then decide what civil and criminal charges to level, against which people, boards and agencies.

 

The EPA has a mandate of overwhelming transparency, and thus has an obligation to keep U.S. citizens, particularly Virgin Islanders, informed and aware of its actions from January onward.  I suggest that a group be formed, comprised of representatives from all agencies involved, AND citizens and environmentalists, to decide, then take action, on what to do now. Should VIWMA be privatized? Should the EPA step in and run the facility? What can we do to clean up and actually start protecting our reefs?

 

Sincerely yours,

 

Susan K. Wolterbeek

 

EPA Mandate to Protect Coral

 GreenerVI Header

 

February 10, 2013

Mark Lichtenstein

Dear Mark:

I am hopeful that now that the EPA actually has a mandate to protect Coral, that the EPA will finally put VIWMA in Receivership, so that the dumping of raw, untreated sewage and chemicals will finally stop.  Since Judith met with me on May 6, 2010, an estimated 300 million more gallons of raw sewage were pumped into our coastal waters, where we swim and snorkel, and where several endangered species live.  Many people have been getting staph infections, flesh eating bacteria, people have died. We need your help.  This is all in violation of federal criminal laws that have not been enforced for 29 years. These criminals are ruining our coral, turtles, and making people very sick.

We need a plan of moving forward, and critical to that plan is the foundation of having people who know what they are doing running, managing and maintaining our utilities, to stop polluting our air and water, NOW. We need to start full bore recycling, closing our dumps which are leaching into our waters, and stopping those people from VIWMA from hurting us any more. These waters are toxic now.

Dave and I have asked the EPA for copies of all documents referring to illegal dumping by VIWMA from 1/1/11-Present. From past years, some “bypasses” of raw, untreated sewage were written up in non-compliance reports, but many were not. Sometimes there are casual emails from VIWMA to DPNR and/or the EPA.  On many non-compliance reports, which DPNR and the EPA review, but do not kick back, VIWMA does not list the quantities, or even amount of days, or weeks, of “Bypass” leaving them blank.

On 11/7/12, over three months ago, Major David Maxwell sent The FOIA Officer his request for these non-compliance reports, as you can see in the email below.  On 1/17/13, I asked John Martin for the data again,  in my email to him. Nonetheless, no one has responded, or sent us anything, after 3 months-far beyond FOIA deadlines. I know your focus is recycling, but this all involves the same VIWMA and DPNR people.

WAPA, our power company, is also polluting our air and coastal waters, as you can see by the enclosed photos, and WAPA is crippling the people and businesses of the USVI, charging us 600-800% of the average US rate, while working at as low as 13% efficiency, according to a federal audit. Many VI Businesses are struggling endlessly to hang on, or are going into bankruptcy. We have written to the Inspector General’s Office of the Dept. of Energy, who said they would investigate…yet this month we have just gotten another unjustified rate increase.

Now just about every beach in the USVI is on the EPA’s impaired beaches list, and that list has not been updated since 2010. The sunshine laws are treated by DPNR as a joke, and Jamal Neilson said DPNR does not post danger signs on impaired beached because the hotels do not like it. We citizens are not cannot get hold of the water quality results, and apparently they are not testing comprehensively.

Trip Advisor talks of the smell of raw sewage in areas of St. Croix, so this pollution is obviously negatively impacting Tourism, which our economy is based upon, as well as killing the remaining 3% of coral and polluting the nutritional food vital to hawksbill and green turtles, who are also supposed to be protected by your Endangered Species laws.

I understand that your basic focus is recycling- but it is not fair to us, the citizens, to swim in filth while you guys keep trying to work with VIWMA, who with its predecessors have dumped into our coastal waters for 29 years, and kept the unlined landfills open. Haven’t they been given enough chances, for 29 years, to get it right? Mark, please consider Receivership now.

                                                                           Sincerely,

Susan

 

Susan Wolterbeek, President        GreenerVI.org

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

VI Waste Management has Dumped Raw Sewage into Coastal Waters for 29 Years

 GreenerVI Header

From: Susan Wolterbeek [mailto:susanremy@vipowernet.net]
Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2013 2:23 PM
To: ‘martin.johnj@epa.gov’
Cc: ‘Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov’; ‘Enck.Judith@epa.gov’
Subject: VI Waste Management dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into our coastal waters, killing coral

Dear Mr. Martin:

Here is email correspondence between Judith Enck and I 3 years ago– the EPA has knowingly and willingly allowed VI Waste Management to dump raw, untreated sewage into VI Coastal Waters for the past 28 years, and despite my letters, conferences with Judith Enck and EPA attorneys, and bringing a Citizen’s Suit, the EPA has continually refused to enforce federal civil and criminal laws to protect our Coral and Sea Turtles. I am glad that the EPA has finally decided to follow the laws after 28 years, and stop Waste Management from dumping filth for us to swim in, but has the dumping actually stopped? Also, DPNR refuses to let us know the results of water tests. We Americans have a right to not have to swim in raw sewage, and the coral cannot move. The turtles are dying or gone since our turtle grass is almost all gone, so they have nothing to eat.

The EPA has not been following the Endangered Species Act or working together to help our coastal waters after all this pollution. It appears that after I wrote to Judith, the following year VI Waste Management dumped even more millions of gallons of raw sewage, and the EPA would not prosecute.  We citizens and the VI Daily News are not even allowed to know the salaries and perks of VI waste management, or a list of the employees.

I am requesting from you freedom of information act information and all documentation on the unauthorized dumping of raw sewage into VI Coastal Waters from 1/1/2011-present. If you need me to send this request to someone else at the EPA, please tell me. It would be helpful to have this information before our meeting in February, so that we can intelligently discuss what the EPA will do to make this stop, and how the EPA will finally help and work with NOAA to save what is left of our coral and turtles.

I look forward to hearing from you.

From: Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov [mailto:Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov]

Sent: Tuesday, May 04, 2010 6:41 PM
To: Susan Wolterbeek
Subject: Re: Environmental impact on Long Reef and endangered species

Thanks. Let’s discuss on thursday.  I assume u are coming to the recycling mtg – right?  I sure hope so!  We can grab some time after that

Sent by EPA Wireless E-Mail Services


  From: “Susan Wolterbeek” [susanremy@vipowernet.net]
  Sent: 05/04/2010 03:46 PM AST
  To: Judith Enck
  Subject: Environmental impact on Long Reef and endangered species

Dear Judith:

I have prepared a response to Carl Soderberg in the form of a rough draft analysis. I am sending it to you first. The last thing we want is to do anything which will negatively impact on you, because you are doing a great job as Regional Administrator. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said locally, and there must be transparency, accountability and penalties here locally, or the dumping will continue. I have done the best research I can with limited data and resources, so there may be many positive things being done, of which I am unaware.

I will await hearing from you, or discussing this with you in person, before sending it out to everyone.  Sincerely, Susan

I then sent Judith the attached letter, dated 5-16-10 after she and I met on May 6, 2010, and here is her response:

From: Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov [mailto:Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov]

Sent: Monday, May 17, 2010 12:37 PM
To: Susan Wolterbeek
Subject: Re: Citizen’s Suit, Human health of Triathaloners, Endangered Species Act

susan: I am looking into the issue of sewage discharges on vi.   (Emphasis supplied).

Judith Enck
Regional Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
290 Broadway
New York, N.Y. 10007-1866
(212)  637-5000

Mr. Martin, I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible. Sincerely, Susan Wolterbeek

Susan Wolterbeek, President

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Human Pathogen Shown to Cause Disease in the Threatened Eklhorn Coral

Human Pathogen Shown to Cause Disease in the Threatened Eklhorn Coral Acropora palmata

Jump to

Kathryn Patterson Sutherland1*, Sameera Shaban1, Jessica L. Joyner2, James W. Porter3, Erin K. Lipp4

1 Department of Biology, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, United States of America, 2 Odum School of Ecology and Department of Environmental Health Science, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States of America, 3 Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States of America, 4 Department of Environmental Health Science, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States of America

Abstract Top

Coral reefs are in severe decline. Infections by the human pathogen Serratia marcescens have contributed to precipitous losses in the common Caribbean elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, culminating in its listing under the United States Endangered Species Act. During a 2003 outbreak of this coral disease, called acroporid serratiosis (APS), a unique strain of the pathogen, Serratia marcescens strain PDR60, was identified from diseased A. palmata, human wastewater, the non-host coral Siderastrea siderea and the corallivorous snail Coralliophila abbreviata. In order to examine humans as a source and other marine invertebrates as vectors and/or reservoirs of the APS pathogen, challenge experiments were conducted with A. palmata maintained in closed aquaria to determine infectivity of strain PDR60 from reef and wastewater sources. Strain PDR60 from wastewater and diseased A. palmata caused disease signs in elkhorn coral in as little as four and five days, respectively, demonstrating that wastewater is a definitive source of APS and identifying human strain PDR60 as a coral pathogen through fulfillment of Koch’s postulates. A. palmata inoculated with strain PDR60 from C. abbreviata showed limited virulence, with one of three inoculated fragments developing APS signs within 13 days. Strain PDR60 from non-host coral S. siderea showed a delayed pathogenic effect, with disease signs developing within an average of 20 days. These results suggest that C. abbreviata and non-host corals may function as reservoirs or vectors of the APS pathogen. Our results provide the first example of a marine “reverse zoonosis” involving the transmission of a human pathogen (S. marcescens) to a marine invertebrate (A. palmata). These findings underscore the interaction between public health practices and environmental health indices such as coral reef survival.

Citation: Sutherland KP, Shaban S, Joyner JL, Porter JW, Lipp EK (2011) Human Pathogen Shown to Cause Disease in the Threatened Eklhorn Coral Acropora palmata. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23468. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023468

Editor: Steve Vollmer, Northeastern University, United States of America

Received: February 28, 2011; Accepted: July 18, 2011; Published: August 17, 2011

Copyright: © 2011 Sutherland et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: This research was supported by Mote Marine Laboratory Protect Our Reefs grant POR-2008-23 (www.mote.org) to KPS and EKL, the Rollins College Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Program and Edward W. and Stella C. Van Houten Memorial Fund to SS and KPS, and by a Rollins College Critchfield Research Grant (www.rollins.edu) to KPS. Additional partial support was provided by National Science Foundation (NSF) grants EF-1015032 to KPS and EF-1015342 to JWP and EKL as part of the joint NSF-National Institutes of Health Ecology of Infectious Disease program (www.nsf.org) and by the US Environmental Protection Agency South Florida Water Quality Protection Program (www.epa.gov) to JWP. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

* E-mail: kpsutherland@rollins.edu

 

Stopping the intentional dumping of raw sewage

GreenerVI Header

 

 

 

From: Susan Wolterbeek [mailto:susanremy@vipowernet.net]
Sent: Tuesday, November 06, 2012 12:39 PM
To: ‘edward.horton@noaa.gov’
Cc: ‘Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov’; ‘lowedavis@dailynews.vi’

Subject: Stopping the intentional dumping of raw sewage into VI coastal waters; working with the federal government and citizens on WAPA and VIWMA
Importance: High

November 4, 2012

Edward Horton

Chief Administrative Officer

NOAA

edward.horton@noaa.gov

Dear Chief Administrative Officer Horton:

                                                                       I am writing to you on behalf of GreenerVI.org, an environmental organization of 4,966 Americans, growing larger every day, and we really need your help. VI Waste Management has been intentionally dumping raw, untreated sewage into our Virgin Islands coastal waters, with the full awareness of the EPA, the Federal District Court and the local government, for the past 29 years. Please see the Federal District Court Order of 3/31/11.

In February, 2010, Regional Administrator Enck sat at my dinner table and promised to soon stop allowing VI Waste Management to dump raw sewage into the very waters where we swim and snorkel, and where the coral and turtles and local fish live.

Since that promise, 2 ½ years ago, VIWMA has dumped an estimated 300 million more gallons of raw, untreated sewage into our coastal waters. We hope you agree that VI Waste Management should not be allowed to keep dumping raw, untreated sewage any longer than 29 years.

Now dozens of our beaches are polluted. Trip Advisor talks of the smell of raw sewage in areas of St. Croix, so this pollution is obviously negatively impacting Tourism, which our economy is based upon, as well as killing the remaining 3% of coral and polluting the nutritional food vital to hawksbill and green turtles, who are also supposed to be protected by your Endangered Species laws.

None of this is accidental. As May Adams Cornwall testified on May 11, 2011, much of the dumping could have been averted by purchasing, repairing and maintaining the necessary pumps. She openly blamed this on executive failure of VIWMA, of which she is the Chief Executive, and admitted VIWMA had not followed the Emergency Court Order of 3/10, even to purchase certain Court Ordered pumps.

Every single dumping of raw sewage is a violation of federal criminal and civil laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, yet no federal agency has taken charge, no one is being held responsible, or accountable, and the dumping continues, often on a daily or weekly basis. By law, the EPA has an absolute duty to report each of these federal violations to NOAA and must formulate a plan to stop the dumping and help our underwater community. We have written dozens of letters to Bureau Chiefs at NOAA, and they say they are following the EPA’s lead, yet the dumping continues.

We filed an Emergency Motion to Intervene/Citizen’s Suit in Federal District Court, against Waste Management and the EPA on May 12, 2011, which is attached. 18 months later, nothing has happened. Administrator Enck says she is currently understandably busy with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on NY and NJ, but why, in 3 decades, are we never a priority? You can read all the filed documents and letters on our website at GreenerVI.org

WAPA, our power company, is also polluting our air and coastal waters, as you can see by the enclosed photos, and WAPA is crippling the people and businesses of the USVI, charging us 600-800% of the average US rate, while working at as low as 13% efficiency, according to a federal audit. Many VI Businesses are struggling endlessly to hang on, or are going into bankruptcy. We have written to the Inspector General’s Office of the Dept. of Energy, who said they would investigate…yet this month we have just gotten another unjustified rate increase.

At this point, we can either plead with the Third Circuit to finally enforce these federal laws, or work together, as we have been requesting of the federal agencies all along. We are asking the Governor and prospective VI Senators to commit to support a joint committee of local government, NOAA, the EPA, Dept. of the Interior and the Dept.of Energy and GreenerVI.org. to work together, to achieve our goals of:

  1.  Finally stopping the dumping of raw, untreated sewage into VI coastal waters;
  2.  Creating recycling centers, with comprehensive structure, funding, and plan implementation;
  3.  Utilizing efficient, environmentally sound energy systems which will substantially decrease cost per customer as low as reasonably possible;
  4. Working with GreenerVI.org, which will maintain a website providing up to date information, schedules, transparency of data, studies, information, a blog so that all caring citizens may weigh in with their thoughts, physical help, equipment, and volunteer fulfillment of work and materials.
  5. Comprehensive study of the coastal waters and a clean-up and rejuvenation plan;
  6. Payment to implement all this through combining discretionary funds from the various federal agencies;
  7. Agreement by the local government to not oppose us, but to work together to achieve these goals.

 

It is election day, a tremendous opportunity for change. Senator Sean Michael Malone, and prospective Senators Clarence Payne and Andreas Tietje have proven themselves time and again to be concerned protectors of our environment. We are going to polling areas, and calling on prospective Senators. We hope that all members of the new VI Legislature will agree to make WAPA and VIWMA our joint priority and will agree to a simple pledge that we must work together, now, to protect the environment in which we live.

We look forward to hearing from you, as soon as possible. We are available by the below phone or email 24/7.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Susan K. Wolterbeek

VI Waste Management dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into our coastal waters

GreenerVI Header

 

From: Susan Wolterbeek [mailto:susanremy@vipowernet.net]
Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2013 2:23 PM
To: ‘martin.johnj@epa.gov’
Cc: ‘Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov’; ‘Enck.Judith@epa.gov’
Subject: VI Waste Management dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into our coastal waters, killing coral

Dear Mr. Martin:

Here is email correspondence between Judith Enck and I 3 years ago– the EPA has knowingly and willingly allowed VI Waste Management to dump raw, untreated sewage into VI Coastal Waters for the past 28 years, and despite my letters, conferences with Judith Enck and EPA attorneys, and bringing a Citizen’s Suit, the EPA has continually refused to enforce federal civil and criminal laws to protect our Coral and Sea Turtles. I am glad that the EPA has finally decided to follow the laws after 28 years, and stop Waste Management from dumping filth for us to swim in, but has the dumping actually stopped? Also, DPNR refuses to let us know the results of water tests. We Americans have a right to not have to swim in raw sewage, and the coral cannot move. The turtles are dying or gone since our turtle grass is almost all gone, so they have nothing to eat.

The EPA has not been following the Endangered Species Act or working together to help our coastal waters after all this pollution. It appears that after I wrote to Judith, the following year VI Waste Management dumped even more millions of gallons of raw sewage, and the EPA would not prosecute.  We citizens and the VI Daily News are not even allowed to know the salaries and perks of VI waste management, or a list of the employees.

I am requesting from you freedom of information act information and all documentation on the unauthorized dumping of raw sewage into VI Coastal Waters from 1/1/2011-present. If you need me to send this request to someone else at the EPA, please tell me. It would be helpful to have this information before our meeting in February, so that we can intelligently discuss what the EPA will do to make this stop, and how the EPA will finally help and work with NOAA to save what is left of our coral and turtles.

I look forward to hearing from you.

From: Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov [mailto:Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov]

Sent: Tuesday, May 04, 2010 6:41 PM
To: Susan Wolterbeek
Subject: Re: Environmental impact on Long Reef and endangered species

Thanks. Let’s discuss on thursday.  I assume u are coming to the recycling mtg – right?  I sure hope so!  We can grab some time after that

Sent by EPA Wireless E-Mail Services


  From: “Susan Wolterbeek” [susanremy@vipowernet.net]
  Sent: 05/04/2010 03:46 PM AST
  To: Judith Enck
  Subject: Environmental impact on Long Reef and endangered species

Dear Judith:

I have prepared a response to Carl Soderberg in the form of a rough draft analysis. I am sending it to you first. The last thing we want is to do anything which will negatively impact on you, because you are doing a great job as Regional Administrator. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said locally, and there must be transparency, accountability and penalties here locally, or the dumping will continue. I have done the best research I can with limited data and resources, so there may be many positive things being done, of which I am unaware.

I will await hearing from you, or discussing this with you in person, before sending it out to everyone.  Sincerely, Susan

I then sent Judith the attached letter, dated 5-16-10 after she and I met on May 6, 2010, and here is her response:

From: Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov [mailto:Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov]

Sent: Monday, May 17, 2010 12:37 PM
To: Susan Wolterbeek
Subject: Re: Citizen’s Suit, Human health of Triathaloners, Endangered Species Act

susan: I am looking into the issue of sewage discharges on vi.   (Emphasis supplied).

Judith Enck
Regional Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
290 Broadway
New York, N.Y. 10007-1866
(212)  637-5000

Mr. Martin, I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible. Sincerely, Susan Wolterbeek

Susan Wolterbeek, President        GreenerVI.org         St Thomas, VI 00803

(340) 714-2233        susan@GreenerVI.org

 

Pledge for Prospective Senators

Dear Editor, VI DailyNews,

                        I hope that all is well with you. GreenerVI.org is now 4,966 strong, with new people signing up every day. I sent you a copy of my letter to the head of NOAA, and it would be great if you could possibly get it into the paper tomorrow, because it affects every Virgin Islander and every business and endangered species here.

 

We are going around to prospective Senators today, as they campaign, and we are asking them to sign this simple pledge:

 

 

 

 

 

We, the prospective Senators of the 30th VI Legislature pledge to uphold the law and demand immediate transparency in VIWMA and WAPA studies, reports, salaries and all documents which legally should be made available to the public and our news agencies. We pledge to make VIWMA stop dumping raw, untreated sewage into our coastal waters and make WAPA more energy efficient, lowering our costs. We pledge to work together, now, with federal agencies and GreenerVI.org, (which has 4,966 citizens), to protect the environment in which we live.

 

Dated: November 6, 2012

Signed:

 

___________________________

___________________________

___________________________

___________________________

___________________________

___________________________

___________________________

 

WAPA Polluting our Air, Water and Coral

This an example of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) polluting our Air, Water and Coral. This is a violation of the US Clean Water Act, the US Clean Air Act and the US Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, this is just one of many violations that happen relatively frequently.

Wapa1

Thick, Dark Smoke from WAPA; Polluting our Air, Water and Coral

 

 

Wapa2

More WAPA pollution of our Air, Water and Coral

 

 

 

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