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Letter to New EPA Administator – 2/19/2017

Dear Administrator Pruitt:

Please allow me to introduce myself: My name is Susan Wolterbeek. I was an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County, a private and NH Attorney for DCYS on Child Abuse and Neglect cases, and I have been doing my best for the past 9 years without any financial support, to help protect Coral and Turtles, Endangered Species, and to get the EPA (and NOAA) to do their job in the USVI. As you can see by the attached IG’s Report from 2015, the EPA failed miserably, and continues to allow criminals to get paid huge salaries, drive fancy cars, get huge pensions, all at the cost of the Endangered Species and the people who live here. Since the people who live here are predominantly minorities, our Civil Rights are also being violated every day by the very Federal Agencies sworn to protect us.

After trying briefly to work with local agencies, I focused my energy on federal agencies to follow federal laws, MOU’s and their own Mandates. In 2009, I was able to prove to USACE that our then Governor and head of Port Authority had lied to USACE 3 times, in writing, in combination with their application to dredge St. Thomas Harbor and dump the dredge spoils into Lindberg Bay, St. Thomas. After reading my attached article published in the VI Daily News, USACE allowed the Governor to pull his application to avoid prosecution, and they did not dump in Lindberg Bay.

Then I learned, after living here for over 12 years, because it was not reported in our newspapers, as required, that VI Waste Management was dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of raw, untreated sewage and toxins regularly into our coastal waters, and according to the EPA itself, private dumping by hotels, etc. was twice as bad. When Judith Enck was newly appointed, she immediately took strong action against NY and NJ environmental criminals, and continued to do so, but she refused, repeatedly, to prosecute in the USVI. This is not only selective prosecution, she had a mandate by the MOU on Minority Juridictions to take corrective action, to weigh in as big brother, so that the corrupt local government would stop lining their pockets with federal funds, and actually take care of the environment.

When she first visited these islands in February 2010, Administrator Enck was not told by Jim Casey of the EPA, or anyone supervising DPNR, (I told her) that VIWMA was right then in the middle of dumping  3.4 Millions of Gallons of raw sewage and toxins, per day, for 60 days, from LBJ Pump Station over Long Reef in St. Croix, and two other pump stations in St. Croix were also dumping, at the same time, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Judith Enck did instruct EPA lawyers to go back to Court, twice, in 2010 and 2011, on a Clean Water Act case the EPA brought in 1984, but all the EPA did from 1984 onward was fine VIWMA for their dumping of raw sewage, and cut their federal funds. The lawyers assigned to the case, particularly Donald Frankel and Eduardo Gonzales, did not know, and did not seem to care, what the actual facts were, which I had gleaned from Non-Compliance Reports given to me by Jim Casey and newspaper articles showing May Adams Cornwall herself and others from VIWMA signed off on documents to the Court saying they were in compliance, had bought the necessary pumps, etc, when they had not, despite what they told and then certified to Judge Gomez. Please see the attached letters to Gonzalez and Frankel, as well as what the Federal Judges have said over the years.

Bottom line, we have open, overflowing dumpsters infested with rats to place our garbage. There is no recycling. We have huge “Dumps” on St. Thomas, (which now looks like a mountain) and St. Croix which were ordered closed decades ago. These unlined dumps leach into our groundwater, and there is a pipe which spews heated, turbid “water” from the St. Thomas Dump into our coastal waters. Heat and turbidity kill coral. WAPA, our power company, also has a heated pipe spewing water into our coastal waters. There is a closed aluminum factory on St. Croix which is spreading Red Mud, laden with toxic, heavy metals, into communities in St. Croix.

WAPA cuts our power now every other day, for hours. They call it rolling blackouts. We had almost no power Christmas week, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. Thus in addition to the up to 56 cents we have had to pay a kilowatt, when the national average is 8-10 cents, we also have to have our home diesel generators running, so our January 2017 bill for 2 people without air conditioning was $238 plus $57 for the diesel. Now WAPA promises more power cuts and intends to increase our rates 40%, because the corrupt local government and the hospitals apparently do not pay their WAPA bills at all.

There are pump out stations required at every marina- but no one at DPNR or EPA enforces this at all. There is just 1 pump out station for St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island, so the boaters and yachts just dump their waste directly into the coastal waters. The air pollution from ships blowing their stacks leaves a black, tarry residue on beach chairs and the local outside vendors and their wares.

The IG over the EPA finally investigated in 2014, and published in 2015 that the EPA MUST take over Waste Management, DPNR and WAPA, because those corrupt and grossly inefficient local agencies were not protecting our environment. The EPA continually refuses to take over these local agencies, or follow the MOUs on the Endangered Species Act, EO 13089, the MOU on Minority Jurisdictions, and the EPA is violating our Civil Rights every day, because the people who live here are mostly Minorities. There are criminal laws associated with these federal laws being violated every day by the EPA, and NOAA, along with VIWMA, DPNR and WAPA.

         Every time the EPA is aware of ANY dumping of raw sewage and toxins, the EPA MUST report to NOAA and have a Formal Evaluation, because of the Coral and Turtles who live here- the EPA has not done that here apparently since the MOUs became active, some decades ago.

I thought getting a Director for the Caribbean was going to help, but I met with Carmen Guerrero in September, told her these big issues and specific ones too. For example, Betty’s Hope Beach near Enfield Green, St. Croix has large fully formed human feces on its beach, Waste Management said it wasn’t their fault, and DPNR did not take care of it. Also, at Abi Beach Bar, at the edge of Green Cay Plantation, an area never developed or permitted because it is a nesting ground for endangered turtles, owner Nicolosi moved ground with heavy equipment and no permits, and apparently told people to come to the bar for turtling as the endangered species were hatching. Someone put it up on Facebook and you can see the turtles in buckets, attached. Nicolosi, apparently without any local agency’s knowledge, also planned to develop the entire 150 acres calling it Sanctuary Cove, and was trying to get investors over the internet. Please see the attached. Finally, because of the outraged neighbors, DPNR initially fined Nicolosi $250,000, then DPNR apparently made a “deal” that Nicolosi could fund $100,000 in scholarships for worthy students. Who knows if he paid that out. He belongs in jail for what he did to the turtles. I told all this to Director Carmen Guerrero when we met in September. When I asked Jim Casey at that meeting if I could see the file, he got cute. Casey said I could not see a file undergoing investigation. I asked if the EPA was investigating that matter, and he finally admitted the EPA was not. We have no transparency here at all in government, even with the local members of the federal government.

I reiterated all this and these specific examples when I wrote to Director Guerrero in December and included 40 attachments of proof of our terrible environmental situation here in the USVI. Please see attached.

Director Guerrero scheduled a call conference with me on Friday, February 3, 2017. She had a month and a half to read the 5 page letter to her and the attachments, but when I asked her about the Abi Beach Bar “deal” with DPNR, she said she had no idea what I was talking about, and she admitted she had not read all the attachments. I said, you also did not even bother to read my letter to you, Carmen, let alone the 40 attachments, because Abi Beach Bar and Sanctuary Cove figured prominently in my 5 page letter to her.  See attached.

As I said to Judith Enck in my letter to her of May 17, 2010, which she admitted she completely forgot about after later reading my letter published on March 2, 2011, WE COULD EASILY HAVE A CHOLERA OUTBREAK HERE. WE HAVE AN OVERWHELMING AMOUNT OF STAPH INFECTIONS, but Judith refused to even ask the local hospitals and doctors for data on how many staph infections they have been treating, or ask the CDC to do so.

I have worked for 9 years on trying to get the EPA and NOAA to follow the federal criminal laws, MOU’s and then the  2015 IG’s Report, but Director Guerrero still says the EPA will not take over Waste Management, DPNR and WAPA, and has no plans to do so. Even the EPA reported to U.S. Congress in 1998 how bad off the U.S. Virgin Islands were then, 19 years ago, yet curiously that USVI section in Chapter 5 was deleted from the Report and is no longer attainable on line. Attached is a copy.

Through GreenerVI.org I have become a liaison for locals to tell me what is going on environmentally. Although Director Guerrero assured me that DPNR is taking a very active role now, it turns out that nothing could be further from the truth. Apparently for 8 months DPNR has been out of fuel funds to gas up their boats, and they have not done any patrolling or enforcing at all. In the lagoon, where our mangroves grow, which are the life of the island, people are tying 30-40 boats directly onto the mangroves, which kills them. There are apparently 30 derelict boats with fuel tanks and other polluters sinking into the water, which have been ticketed, but DPNR has not towed them away or done anything with them. I have been told that Companies have been CLEARCUTTING mangroves to put up illegal docks, with no permits. The areas to check are around EcoTours, Tropical Marine and Compass Point Marina. I cannot verify the above information myself, I do not have a boat, but you can order it to be done.

Please help us, NOW! We need our water tested, correctly, and thoroughly, and not by DPNR and Amy Dempsey’s company, whose tests the EPA itself threw out for years. If you look at the newspaper article about the 2015 IG’s report, as well as the report itself, you will see we are and have been in an emergency situation for years. Please weigh in now, and get our water tested, and we really need a federal task force, with the Dept. of Energy, NOAA, Dept. of the Interior  and Fish and Wildlife. After all my years of pushing there is finally a federal criminal investigation ongoing into environmental crimes in the USVI, so perhaps that will spur the EPA to do its job, but I am begging you please, Administrator Pruitt, to finally make the coral, turtles and humans of the USVI a priority for the EPA.

We need help, Mr. Pruitt, as we needed it 19 years ago, but now the environment is so bad it just can’t sustain us anymore. We already have 200 beaches that are polluted, and the fecal coliform and turbidity is terrible, and unless stopped, will kill the rest of the coral, which needs clean, clear water to survive. Most of our seagrasses are gone, which is what our green turtles feed on. We need to start recolonizing coral and seagrasses and sponges, but first the dumping must stop! Please help us, and not with words but with the action the IG reported- take over the local corrupt and inefficient agencies and save us before it is too late.

Sincerely, Susan K. Wolterbeek, Esq.,

President GreenerVI.org POB 306658, St. Thomas, VI 00803

(340) 714-2233        susan@greenervi.org

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