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Sewage diverted over St. Croix reef

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.

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