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Raw Sewage, St Croix 2010

Letter to NOAA Bureau Chiefs

February 14, 2010

Sarah Heberling, NOAA

Steve Meyers, NOAA

Dave Bernhardt, NOAA

Miles Croom, NOAA

Dear NOAA Chiefs:

The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority is dumping an enormous amount of raw sewage onto Long Reef, St Croix, US Virgin Islands, and has been doing so all last week. Please see the VI Daily News article below.   Sadly, I learned from Paul Chakroff, Executive Director of the St. Croix Environmental Association, that Waste Management has been dumping large quantities of raw sewage every few months for many years, and DPNR has kept on allowing it, every time. Each time they claim it is an emergency, so that they can qualify under a provision in a 1990 consent order between DPNR and VI Public Works, which is attached.

Paragraph 17 of said agreement states “DPNR records document an extensive chronology of unpermitted discharges of untreated sewage into the waters on all three islands.” Now, 20 years later, Waste Management is still dumping raw sewage, every few months.    I have alerted Judith Enck, our new EPA Regional Administrator, of the dumping. Ms. Enck had just visited the Virgin Islands, and met with not only the local government but also with local environmentalists and concerned citizen groups, one of the first meetings of its kind here with federal agents, which we deeply appreciated. Barely two days after Administrator Enck left, Waste Management suddenly had another quarterly emergency and the dumping began again. The EPA is investigating the matter from their end, but it would help to coordinate agency efforts, and to let the USVI citizens know that you care, because they are killing our coral, and this dumping of raw sewage has been going on and on for years.

Since DPNR is under NOAA, and you are all bureau chiefs and coral experts, won’t you please force Waste Management and DPNR to come up with at least an interim plan, immediately, so they will not do any more dumping? Second, can any funds and personnel be released to evaluate and clean up Long Reef, before it is too late? I emailed Dr. Lisamarie Carrubba, our local NOAA contact, but she has not even responded. Again, this has been an ongoing problem, for decades.  Can’t we please get a task force down here, from National Headquarters, before it is too late?

Waste Management still has all residents throwing garbage into huge dumpsters, without any recycling.  They have agreed to the Alpine plan to build petroleum coke/oil/garbage burning plants here, using the heavy metal refuse from Venezuelan oil, hence very high in sulphur, emitting far greater CO2 than at present, right into Stalley Bay, which the local government characterized a few months ago as “pristine”, and filled with endangered species.

A lease has already been signed to build these plants in St. Thomas and St. Croix, with 444 million of  Virgin Island ratepayers’ money, then run these plants for 20 years, with a renewal for another 20 years. They plan to build a 10 million dollar dock in St. Thomas, with 300 foot barges driving in all of the petroleum coke, ammonia, and other products, and barging out 370,000 tons of fly ash per year, without any spills or accidents. There would be huge intake and outflow pipes of “treated water” going out into this “pristine” bay.  It is very windy here in the Virgin Islands. They plan to build silos to contain only 2 days worth of fly ash. What if the barges were to run into heavy weather several days in a row? Please see the attached letter to Senator Malone, urging him to take action and dispense with Alpine.

I am taking a similar approach with Alpine as to that which worked so successfully in Lindbergh Bay, as you all may remember from October, and caused the local government to withdraw their application to dump dredge spoils just a few days after the letter to USACE was published in the VI Daily News.

In addition to all the citizens and environmentalists who have written daily Letters to the Editor for many months now, and testified before the Senate, and the appeal of the Public Service Commission decision, I am consulting with federal agencies, supplying documentary proof, and publishing the legal analysis, but I am a private citizen, unpaid, without resources or clout of a federal agency. If NOAA has a position for this sort of work, I am your woman, but otherwise it would be of enormous help if the federal agencies would take a more proactive role here, beginning with stopping the dumping of raw sewage onto our reefs.

After all, your agency is spending millions to fund coral and coastal zone programs.  Those monies and efforts are wasted if raw sewage is being dumped on the reefs, and petroleum coke/oil/garbage plants belch out heavy metals, dioxins and high levels of CO2 for the next 40 years.  May we please form a coalition, now, of federal agencies, local agencies, environmentalists and citizens to address our waste and energy issues?  Thank you for your consideration in regard to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

Susan K. Wolterbeek

Miyoko Sakashita, Esq., Center for Biological Diversity

Dr. Caroline Rogers

Dr. Jeff Miller

Judith Enck, EPA Administrator, Region II

 

Sewage diverted over St. Croix reef

By JOY BLACKBURN, Daily News Staff
Published: April 28, 2010

ST. CROIX — The V.I. Waste Management Authority started pumping sewage over Long Reef on Saturday because of a leak near the LBJ pump station.

According to a statement Waste Management released Tuesday, the authority diverted the wastewater flow to sea over the reef “to reduce the impact to the adjacent neighborhood and prevent sewer overflows in Christiansted town and surrounding areas.”

Although the statement said the diversion was because of a broken force main, spokeswoman Stella Saunders said the problem was a leak at the junction where a bypass line and the force main meet about 50 feet east of the LBJ pump station.

The bypassing over Long Reef started at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and was expected to continue for the next five days, according to the statement the authority released Tuesday.

Saunders said officials anticipate it will take that long to make the repairs, which involve letting the line drain, excavating, and repairing or replacing the affected parts.

The federal government last month filed an emergency motion in federal court seeking an order for the Waste Management Authority to make specific improvements at its Fig Tree pump station on St. Croix and at the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas to stop sewage from dumping into the sea.

In its motion, the federal government contended that between January and March, the authority discharged more than 50 million gallons of raw sewage into the Caribbean Sea — in violation of an amended consent decree and the Clean Water Act — because of pump failures at various times at both the Fig Tree and LBJ stations.

The resulting court order pertained specifically to Waste Management having operational pumps and backups at the Fig Tree station on St. Croix and at the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas, as well as ensuring St. Croix has two operational diesel pumps for emergencies.

The Waste Management Authority must also comply with public notification requirements.

The order does not deal specifically with the LBJ pump station or the problem that Waste Management says caused the current bypass.

“You have to realize this is an old system. We have to make repairs,” Saunders said.

John Senn, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said in an e-mail that the authority informed the EPA about the problem on Monday and that EPA has requested additional information.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and are hopeful that the discharge is stopped as soon as possible,” he said.

In its statement, the Waste Management Authority advised all residents with compromised immune systems to avoid the area during this time because the sewage may contain contaminants. It said signs will be posted on the beach reminding persons to avoid the Long Reef and adjacent beach areas until the force main is back in service.

Dumping Raw Sewage onto Long Reef

On February 6, 2010, the VI Daily News reported that the VI Waste Management Authority (VIWMA)  was dumping raw sewage over Long Reef.

Upon reading the article that Saturday morning, GreenerVI.com President Susan Wolterbeek emailed Judith Enck, the newly appointed EPA Administrator for Region 2, (which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and seven tribal nations). Administrator Enck responded that afternoon, saying she would take care of it, and she did.

On Monday, February 8, 2010, Jim Casey, our local EPA representative, immediately started the investigation and called Wolterbeek with an update. Mr. Casey’s investigation confirmed VIWMA was dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage over the reef, every day.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion in Federal District Court in mid-March to stop VIWMA from dumping any more raw sewage.

As reported by the Daily News:

“According to the order, Earl Haase, Waste Management’s director of wastewater, testified in court Tuesday about the Figtree pump station failures. He said Figtree receives about 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage a day, all of which was bypassed into the Figtree gut while all three pumps at the station were down. The problems at the Figtree pump station began Jan. 17 when electrical problems caused a pump to fail. ”

Therefore, by VIWMA’s own admission, approximately 72 Million Gallons of raw sewage was dumped onto Long Reef.  As the VI Daily News reported, before rendering a final written order, Federal District Court Judge Gomez  ordered Waste Management to do the following:

– Ensure the one working pump at Figtree station remains operational.

– Install a second working pump at Figtree by Tuesday.

– Comply with the public notification requirements as detailed in the Territorial

Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. According to the permit, the agency must notify the public by television, radio and newspaper each day a sewage bypass occurs.

– Ensure that St. Croix has two operational auxiliary diesel pumps for emergencies. The first must be obtained by Wednesday and the second by March 26.

– Certify that the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas has a six-inch and a four-inch auxiliary diesel pump in working order as backup for the 10-inch pump currently in operation.

The federal government said in Thursday’s court filing that in addition to the problems at LBJ and Figtree, the Barren Spot pump station on St. Croix and the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas also are in danger of failing as well.

The EPA issued a press release on March 22, 2010, as shown below, confirming these specific orders.  One would think that VIWMA would be very scrupulously complying with the federal court order, purchasing and installing all the replacement and backup pumps according to the judge’s schedule. Also note that VIWMA was to certify that two pumps at the Cancryn Pump Station, the main station of St. Thomas, are operational. Yet the VI Daily News article dated Friday, April 16, 2010, below, told a different story:

“Because of the frequent failures, Waste Management is planning to buy a number of upgraded pumps to replace the downed pumped and a backup for each station on St. Croix.” …“St. Thomas’ Cancryn pump station – the island’s main 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.”

These  statements lead one to believe that the pumps have not been purchased yet, and that VIWMA could not have certified that the Cancryn Pump Station is operational, if it has been without a working pump for 9 months. Therefore, GreenerVI.org’s Wolterbeek has written the attached letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Judith Enck, Administrator of Region 2 of the EPA.

Federal Judge Orders Upgrades on Illegal Sewage Discharges

Compliance and Enforcement News Release (Region 2): Virgin Islands Halts Illegal Sewage Discharge on St. Croix; Federal Judge Orders Upgrades

U.S. EPA [usaepa@govdelivery.com]

Mon 3/22/2010 4:03 PM

Virgin Islands Halts Illegal Sewage Discharge on St. Croix;
Federal Judge Orders Upgrades

Contacts: (News Media Only): John Senn, (212) 637-3667, senn.john@epa.gov, or Jose Font, (787) 977-5815, font.jose@epa.gov.

(San Juan, P.R. – March 22, 2010) Acting on a motion from the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Chief District Judge Curtis V. Gómez last week ordered that a pump at the Figtree Pump Station on St. Croix remain operational and that additional pumps be installed at the station after equipment failure there led to the illegal discharge of millions of gallons of raw sewage over a two month period. The Justice Department, acting on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed an emergency motion on March 11 to have the discharges from the Figtree Station stopped. This followed an EPA order on March 2 requiring the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority to stop discharges from the Figtree and LBJ pump stations. The discharge from LBJ, which was pumped over Long Reef north of St. Croix, had been stopped on February 26, and the Figtree discharge was stopped on March 17 when a pump was moved from the LBJ station to the Figtree station. Contact with polluted water, usually during swimming, can cause infections and illnesses, especially among children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

“The continued discharge of raw sewage from a pump station in St. Croix was simply not acceptable,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Discharges of raw sewage are a potential threat to public health, and are destructive to the incredible natural resources, such as coral reefs on which much of the Virgin Islands’ people and its economy depend.”

Equipment failure at the Figtree Pump Station on St. Croix led to a daily discharge of 300,000 to more than 1 million gallons of raw sewage from January 17 to March 17 into Cane Garden Bay or over Long Reef, both of which feed into the Caribbean Sea. The LBJ Pump Station was by-passed to reduce the raw sewage flowing to the Figtree Pump Station. Under normal operating conditions, sewage passes through the LBJ Pump Station, goes to the Figtree Pump Station, and then flows to the Anguilla Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Under Judge Gómez’s order, the Waste Management Authority must install a second house pump at the Figtree station by tomorrow, make sure St. Croix has two functioning auxiliary pumps by Friday, certify that two pumps at the Cancryn Pump Station are operational and comply with public notification requirements regarding sewage discharges.

Initially, the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources took action to stop the discharges by issuing a Notice of Violation to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority. When the authority failed to correct the problems, EPA issued the order directing the Waste Management Authority to immediately stop the discharges. EPA’s order also required the Waste Management Authority to implement measures to prevent equipment failures. The discharge of raw sewage is regulated by EPA under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, a component of the federal Clean Water Act.

“Measures to prevent the failure of equipment and contingency plans for quickly addressing damaged equipment did not exist or utterly failed in these incidents,” Enck added. “We expect the Virgin Islands to have plans in place to prevent these types of discharges from happening in the future.”

For more information on how EPA regulates the disposal of sewage, visit http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/home.cfm?program_id=5. For more information on EPA’s work in the U.S. Virgin Islands, visit http://epa.gov/region2/cepd/vilink.htm.

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/eparegion2.

Recent Dumping of 72 Million Gallons of Raw Sewage over Long Reef

Joycelyn Hewlett
Civil Chief/ FLU Supervisory Attorney

United States Attorney’s Office
United States Courthouse & Federal Building
5500 Veteran’s Drive, Suite 260
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands 00802-6424

Re:  Recent dumping of 72 million gallons of raw sewage over Long Reef

Dear Attorney Hewlett:

I am a stateside attorney and former NYC Assistant District Attorney, and am writing in regard to VIWMA’s dumping 72 million gallons of raw sewage over Long Reef from January 17th through mid-March, 2010.  The VI Daily News reported that Federal District Court Judge Gomez directed VIWMA to do the following:

– Ensure the one working pump at Figtree station remains operational.

– Install a second working pump at Figtree by Tuesday.

– Comply with the public notification requirements as detailed in the Territorial Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. According to the permit, the agency must notify the public by television, radio and newspaper each day a sewage bypass occurs.

– Ensure that St. Croix has two operational auxiliary diesel pumps for emergencies. The first must be obtained by Wednesday and the second by March 26.

– Certify that the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas has a six-inch and a four-inch auxiliary diesel pump in working order as backup for the 10-inch pump currently in operation.

The federal government said in Thursday’s court filing that in addition to the problems at LBJ and Figtree, the Barren Spot pump station on St. Croix and the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas also are in danger of failing as well.

One would think that VIWMA would be very scrupulously complying with the federal court order, purchasing and installing all the replacement and backup pumps according to the judge’s schedule. Also note that VIWMA was to certify that the Cancryn Pump Station, the main station of St. Thomas, is operational, with two back-up pumps. However, according to the VI Daily News article dated Friday, April 16, 2010:

“Because of the frequent failures, Waste Management is planning to buy a number of upgraded pumps to replace the downed pumped and a backup for each station on St. Croix.” …“St. Thomas’ Cancryn pump station – the island’s main 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.”

These statements lead one to believe that the pumps have not been purchased yet, in direct violation of the District Court Order.

I wrote to Jim Casey, Virgin Islands Coordinator of EPA Region 2 on Monday, April 26, 2010 to suggest that the EPA  may want to  confirm that VIWMA has complied with the March District Court Order. Then, the next day, VIWMA again allowed raw sewage to flow into our coastal waters and the Caribbean Sea.  It was emphatically stated that this new release of raw sewage was a pipe issue, not the pumps, but you may want to find out whether VIWMA bought and installed the pumps as specified in the court order, or just submitted a plan to do so.

Further, the March Court Order states that Cancryn pump station “is in danger of failing”, not that it has already failed, waste is currently diverted around Cancryn, and that station has been without a working pump for 9 months.  According to the Order, VIWMA had to certify in March for Cancryn that there are 4 inch and 6 inch auxiliary backup pumps in addition to a working 10 inch operational pump. Yet, VIWMA stated in April that the Cancryn pump has not been working for 9 months, so how could they possibly make such a certification?

According to NOAA, “coral reefs buffer adjacent shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage and loss of life. Reefs also protect the highly productive wetlands along the coast, as well as ports and harbors and the economies they support. Healthy reefs contribute to local economies through tourism. Diving tours, fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef systems provide millions of jobs and contribute billions of dollars all over the world. Recent studies show that millions of people visit coral reefs in the Florida Keys every year. These reefs alone are estimated to have an asset value of $7.6 billion (Johns et al., 2001).”

You may be aware of the enormous oil spill which is near Florida and appears to be headed for the Florida Keys, where NOAA and Coral experts have been protecting and recolonizing coral. If Florida’s coral dies from this massive oil spill, we must be all the more protective of the coral in the USVI.

There remains only 3 percent left of the coral of 30 years ago.  Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral are currently protected by the Endangered Species Act, and the Center for Biological Diversity has filed a formal petition to protect 83 more imperiled coral species, seven of which are local to the U.S. Virgin Islands.  These corals already face a growing threat of extinction due to rising ocean temperatures caused by global warming, and the related threat of ocean acidification.  Now 72 million gallons of raw sewage has been dumped onto the reefs, then more on Tuesday. Steps must be taken to ensure there will be no more dumping, or the reefs will be gone.

Sincerely yours,

Susan K. Wolterbeek

cc: Judith Enck, EPA Administrator, Region 2

Miyoko Sakashita, Oceans Director, Center for Biological Diversity

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