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endangered coral

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

 

 

 

NOAA Defers Raw Sewage Issue to EPA … and the Dumping Continues

—–Original Message—–
From: Thomas Bigford [mailto:Thomas.Bigford@noaa.gov]
Sent: Monday, May 03, 2010 1:09 PM
To: Susan Wolterbeek
Subject: Your Phone Call

Susan — I relayed the basics from our phone conversation and have been heartened by the vigorous discussion across many federal agencies and from regions to headquarters.  I’ll try to distill the conversations in an email to you later today or will ask someone else to contact you in my absence (I’ll be on the west coast from Tues-Thur).  Thanks again for your call.

Tom

—–Original Message—–
From: Thomas Bigford [mailto:Thomas.Bigford@noaa.gov]
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 12:35 AM
To: Susan Wolterbeek
Cc: Jennifer.Koss; Jennifer Moore; Steven Thur
Subject: Re: Update Tomorrow

Susan —

Sorry for the delay.  My travels to Seattle have been busier than expected.

I shared details from our phone call immediately after we talked last Friday.  The coral, protected species, and habitat folks across NOAA exchanged ideas based on our conversation and your earlier postings to NOAA’s coral email address. The protected species people know their options if Acropora are present.  And the coral people relayed the info to EPA Region 2, with jurisdiction in the islands.  This is really a water quality issue in EPA’s hands but we realize the implications to NOAA interests, too.  I have not seen any new emails in the past day so must assume EPA Region 2 in NYC and the islands are proceeding.  We’ll remain in touch with them so we know what happens.

Tom

Susan Wolterbeek wrote:

Dear Tom:

I see this as impacting Endangered Species, Habitat, Coastal Zone, and your Coral Divisions. In addition to the 72 million gallons dumped 1/17-3/17, VIWMA dumped  April 24-27th. Then, an Iron Man Triathalon was held on Sunday, May 2, and these top competitors, in top physical shape, swam in those waters. We need to stop this dumping.  I have written an analysis and am talking with Judith Enck, Regional Director, EPA tomorrow. I will get back to you after that.

Sincerely, Susan

NOAA Notified of Illegal, Continuing Dumping of Raw Sewage

From: Thomas Bigford [mailto:Thomas.Bigford@noaa.gov]
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2010 4:04 PM
To: Susan Wolterbeek
Subject: Re: VIWMA dumping 72 million gallons or raw sewage over Long Reef, St. Croix

Thanks for your phone call and message, Susan.  I have relayed the information to others and will follow up with them later today and Monday.  I’ll get back to you asap.

Susan Wolterbeek wrote:

April 30, 2010

Mr. Thomas Bigford, Habitat Division (F/HC2)

National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA

1315 East-West Highway, Rm 15317

Silver Spring, MD 20910

Dear Mr. Bigford:

I have been doing the preliminary research on various federal laws and approaches to the problem, and I think the best solution would be to file an amicus brief with the Federal District Court, in conjunction with NOAA, FWS, the Nature Conservancy and the Center for Biological Diversity, and in support of the EPA. Here are the basic facts:

There is a longstanding EPA consent decree based upon prior violations by VIWMA. VIWMA does not abide by the consent decree. VIWMA does not even do the minimum required publishing and reporting every day the fact that it is daily dumping 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage and people should stay out of the coastal waters, and fishermen should not catch fish there. This in itself is a gross negligence for failing to perform the most rudimentary of  health care measures. Further, we have a large tourist population  during the height of season, and they should have been warned as well as the Virgin Islanders.

Also, this discharge of 72 Million Gallons of raw sewage was dumped near protected wildlife refuges, and in coastal waters which is the home to staghorn and elkhorn coral and their habitat, all protected by the ESA as well as protected turtles, fish, and other species.

VIWMA is fiscally irresponsible, not collecting septage and other basic fees, not keeping all federally mandated records or even issuing an annual report for the past 4 years.

VIWMA has not maintained its equipment, or had a reasonable back-up system, resulting in VIWMA dumping 72 million gallons of raw sewage over Long Reef, St. Croix, over a two month period. VIWMA was told by the EPA to stop dumping but did not do so until it received a Court Order.

Federal District Court Judge Gomez issued specific orders on March 18, 2010. VIWMA then violated those orders as reported in a newspaper article.

Then, VIWMA again dumped raw sewage on April 27, 2010.

Clearly, VIWMA has no interest or intention of  following court orders. We cannot wait for VIWMA to dump any more raw sewage.

The Federal District Court has the ability to take extraordinary measures on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands for human health reasons, for criminal taking of Endangered Species, for wholescale mismanagement of  the VIWMA. The Federal District Court may order the EPA to take over management of the VIWMA.

That needs to occur now. If the EPA takes over management of VIWMA, it can stop dumping, buy necessary equipment, say no to Alpine, and focus on a comprehensive waste management plan.

My rough research shows the following:

It is entirely appropriate to file an Amicus Brief , particularly when VIWMA has just violated Federal District Court Orders.

The ESA affects regulation under the Clean Water Act. 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). Moreover, EPA has been negotiating agreements with states that issue NPDES, thus it is also appropriate and helpful to the District Court Judge to get NOAA, FWS, The Nature Conservancy and the Center for Biological Diversity’s  point of view on all of this, while the case is currently before the Court.

ESA § 9 makes it unlawful for anyone to “take” a listed animal, and this includes significantly modifying its habitat.

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.

Thus, NOAA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office may chose to prosecute the Senior Staff, Board of Directors, and perhaps other agency personnel for thousands of criminal violations of the ESA.  All of this could have been avoided,  and now so much of our coral, wildlife preserves and ecosystem in general is at risk. Given what is going on with the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, and how that may devastate the Florida coral populations, that makes this case all the more unconscionable, since it should never have happened.

Pursuant to ESA Chapter 7, “Each federal agency shall . . . ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by such agency . . . is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat of such species.”  The only way the EPA can ensure this is if it takes over VIWMA.

Do you think NOAA/NMFS would submit an Amicus Brief, either jointly with or separately from the aforementioned agencies? The Center for Biological Diversity is very interested, but they don’t have the manpower to prepare the Amicus Brief. I have been communicating with Peter Galvin, Chief, International Division, telephone: 707.986.2600   email: ‘PGalvin@biologicaldiversity.org

In regard to the Nature Conservancy, since they have 3 project areas of recolonization of Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral around St. Croix and 1 in St. Thomas, (through a NOAA grant) they may have all the data you need to make your criminal as well as civil action successful. The contact person there is:

Kemit-Amon Lewis, Coral Conservation Manager for The Nature Conservancy at (340) 718-5575 or via email klewis@tnc.org.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

Susan K. Wolterbeek

Your Island, Your Health – St Croix

 

Your Island, Your Health

Every single one of us requires air and water for survival. Without air to breathe we would not last but a few minutes. Without water to drink our bodies dry up, our organs systems fail and we die. If air and water are essential for our immediate survival, it makes sense that clear air and water are desirable. We can even go a step further and say that clean air and water are essential for health and a decent quality of life. You don’t have to be an expert to know the value of clean air and water- invaluable. This is not rocket science.

If you think that there is more than enough clean air out there so we can afford to get some dirty, think again. If you think that there is more than enough clean water out there, so we can afford to pollute some of it think again.

Right now most of us drink water that we buy in little plastic bottles that are filling up landfills because we don’t trust that our water supply is safe enough to drink. Right now the incidence of asthma, respiratory diseases, cancer, and allergies appears to be abnormally and curiously high in neighborhoods downwind of power plants and oil refineries.

What do we say to industry when we are told that burning petroleum coke aka “dirty coal” to incinerate municipal trash won’t kill us. According to the November 2009 report from Physicians for Social Responsibility, coal pollutants affect all major body systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of death, namely heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic respiratory disease thusly compounding the major public health challenges of our time. Coal combustion releases a combination of toxic chemicals into the environment such as sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, heavy metals including mercury and nickel, and dozens of other substances known to be hazardous to human health and the health of our entire ecosystem. In other words, we are working seriously hard to poison ourselves and the entire planet—piece by piece.

Heavy metals, such as lead, nickel, and mercury, poison key enzyme systems of the body and are known to cause a host of degenerative, age related diseases. Our bodies cannot effectively eliminate these heavy metals, so they accumulate over our lifetime. When we are young and healthy most of us handle this toxic stress by hiding the toxins within our cells, but eventually the cells become overburdened and the toxicity spills out and begins to affect the entire body and we get sick. Sickness starts slowly and insidiously with age-related conditions such as hypertension and hyperlipidemia, or we may feel tired for no good reason. In later years metal toxicity may show itself in disease states that can end our lives, including heart disease and cancer, or degenerative brain diseases like senility and Alzheimer’s.

What do we say to industry experts when they tell us, “don’t worry, we’ll burn your trash and everything will be just fine,” as plastics, pesticides, and household chemicals which are all mixed up in our municipal waste release poisonous gases from incinerator smoke stacks.

While the experts tell us, don’t worry about that dirty air, “we’ll wash and scrub it before it is released”, a New York Times article in October of this past year reports, “even as a growing number of coal burning power plants around the nation have moved to reduce their air emissions, many are creating another problem, water pollution. Power plants are the nation’s biggest producer of toxic waste. Much power plant waste once went into the sky, but because of toughened air pollution laws, it now often goes into lakes and rivers or into landfills that have leaked into nearby groundwater, say regulators and environmentalists.

What do we say as organic pollutants filter into our ground water and acid rain falls and collects in our cisterns? This is the water that we shower with and give to our plants. These are the toxins that become part of our fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds that we then eat. To put it simply, that little bit of dirty air and water is now a part of your body. You are now the reservoir of environmental pollutants and toxins. Now you need some serious detox.

How do we measure how much dirty air and polluted water and toxic food we can tolerate before the risks outweigh the “benefits”? You don’t have to be an expert to figure that out, it’s not rocket science. Look around at your friends and family, look at yourself.

On this small island in the Caribbean where we supposedly have lots of clean air and water look at the incidence of asthma, respiratory diseases, cancer, heart disease, and elevated cholesterol in your friends and loved ones. Remember the lobster that you put in the pot and then put on a slow flame. That lobster heated up so slowly that it did not notice the heat till it was dead. So, who wants to be a cooked lobster?

For those of us who are not industry experts, lets review the facts. A corporate entity has convinced us to pay them to solve our solid waste problem and give us the added benefit of a little electricity to the tune of 2 – 3 billion dollars, yes, billion. The direct cost to ratepayers: over $3 billion not including environmental, health, and socioeconomic costs.

The experts plan to solve our problem by purchasing and using pet coke, a waste derived from refining crude oil to burn the trash from our land fills and create PRDF, pelletized refuse derived fuel, which they will then burn to create a relatively small amount of electricity. A lot of burning going on and we know what burning dirty coal does to air and water quality.

In this whole process they will also create 379,000 tons per year of toxic waste, fly ash, which we will then have to pay and beg to have carted off the island or more than likely the fly ash will stay on to create a hazardous landfill. We still have a big red mountain of toxic waste somewhere off the highway after umpteen years. I thought we were supposed to be getting rid of our landfills not creating more of them.

We are told that we must approve this preposterous proposition now, otherwise we will have to pay fines to the Federal Government for failure to close our landfills, and further more nobody can afford to pay their water and power bills. We are being asked to create Frankenstein to kill a skunk, but after the skunk is dead we will be left with a creation that will cost us dearly—not just us but our generations to come.

Let us be aware that in addition to $3 billion dollars we will be paying with our health and quality of life for our children and us. According to a new RAND Corporation report, elevated air pollution levels in California which has some of the most stringent air quality controls in the country, resulted in more than $193 million in hospital-based medical care between 2005 and 2007.

We will be paying with loss of property values. We will be paying with loss of our economic marketing strategy of ecotourism. Who wants to visit an island paradise with smokestacks in your face? Who wants to be downwind, and who knows which way the wind will blow?

Why are we going backward with old dirty fuels on the advise of corporate entities whose sole purpose is to make a profit? Have we forgotten the executives of Wall Street and the Banking Industry? Have we forgotten Sir. Allen Stanford and his duping of the entire island state of Antigua and its impact on us here on St. Croix? Do we really think that corporate America cares for our health and well being?

Here is a new plan. Let’s call in the real experts. While the rest of the world is moving forward with recycling, green technology, and renewable energy like wind and solar, we are creating a giant technology that is taking us back to the past. We must realize that we cannot continue to befoul our air and water, ourselves, and the very earth that allows us to live and breathe and have our being, without consequences.

Let’s call in the real experts to offer us new, clean, and affordable technology that will support our health and prosperity now, and for our generations. Let’s put solar panels on every roof and wind turbines where the wind blows. That will cut everyone’s energy costs significantly. When the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine there is geothermal from Nevis, and possibly St. Thomas.

Let’s upgrade VIWAPA and make it more efficient and reliable. Let’s recycle our waste and sell it for a profit. For 3 billion dollars, I am confident that we could do that and more. With 3 billion dollars we could fix a lot of problems, instead of paying through the nose to create more.

So what do you say when industry experts want to sell you a bill of goods? Say thanks, but no thanks, we have better ideas. This is not rocket science. It is common sense. Let’s start using a little bit of it.

Let us understand that we can no longer trust that industry experts care about our health, and well being, and prosperity ahead of their bottom line—profit. We can no longer afford to separate our morality from our business ventures. We can no longer afford to shoot ourselves in the feet.

As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “ an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” We are that humanity. Lets wake up and take action to stop the madness.

Cheryl Wade, MD, FACS

US Attorney Notified About Continuing, Illegal Dumping of Raw Sewage

Although We Wrote to the US Attorney About Contempt of Court Orders, We Heard Nothing Further

Response email from the US Attorney

From: Hewlett, Joycelyn (USAVI) [mailto:Joycelyn.Hewlett@usdoj.gov]
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2010 12:45 PM
To: Susan Wolterbeek
Cc: Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov; miyoko sakashita; Frankel, Donald (ENRD)
Subject: RE: Recent dumping of 72 million gallons of raw sewage over Long Reef

Dear Ms. Wolterbeek:

Thank you for your telephone call and e-mail.  I have copied Attorney Donald Frankel, the lead attorney on this case.  He has been following the developments in this case and will respond accordingly.

Original Notification Letter to US Attorney, Asking Them to Enforce Court Orders and the Endangered Species Act

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

Protection Sought for 83 Coral Species

For Immediate Release, October 20, 2009

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 436-9682 x 308, miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org

Protection Sought for 83 Coral Species as Coral Heads for Worldwide Extinction

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal petition seeking to protect 83 imperiled coral species under the Endangered Species Act. These corals, all of which occur in U.S. waters ranging from Florida and Hawaii to U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, face a growing threat of extinction due to rising ocean temperatures caused by global warming, and the related threat of ocean acidification.

Scientists have warned that coral reefs are likely to be the first worldwide ecosystem to collapse due to global warming; all the world’s reefs could be destroyed by 2050.

“Coral reefs are the world’s most endangered ecosystems and provide an early warning of impacts to come from our thirst for fossil fuels,” said Miyoko Sakashita oceans director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Within a few decades, global warming and ocean acidification threaten to completely unravel magnificent coral reefs that took millions of years to build.”

Corals are among the species most imperiled by climate change. When corals are stressed by warm ocean temperatures, they experience bleaching — which means they expel the colorful algae upon which they rely for energy and growth. Many corals die or succumb to disease after bleaching. Mass bleaching events have become much more frequent and severe as ocean temperatures have risen in recent decades. Scientists predict that most of the world’s corals will be subjected to mass bleaching events at deadly frequencies within 20 years on our current emissions path.

Not only is greenhouse gas pollution causing corals to bleach and die, but it also makes it difficult for corals to grow and rebuild their colonies. Ocean acidification, caused by the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide, is already impairing the ability of corals to build their protective skeletons. At CO2 levels of 450 ppm, scientists predict that reef erosion will eclipse the ability of corals to grow.  Moreover, ocean acidification and global warming render corals even more susceptible to other threats that have led to the present degraded state of our reefs, including destructive fishing, agriculture runoff, storms, sea-level rise, pollution, abrasion, predation, and disease.

Leading coral biologist Charles Veron warned in a recent scientific paper that at current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere (387 ppm) most of the world’s coral reefs are committed to an irreversible decline. Other scientists have warned that CO2 concentrations must be reduced to levels below 350 ppm to protect corals and avoid mass extinctions on land and sea. The CO2 reductions proposed in the climate bill now making its way through Congress are unlikely to result in an atmospheric concentration below 450 ppm, much less 350 ppm.

“The coral conservation crisis is already so severe that preventing the extinction of coral reefs and the marine life that depends upon them is an enormous undertaking. The Endangered Species Act has an important role to play in that effort,” added Sakashita. “But without rapid CO2 reductions, the fate of the world’s coral reefs will be sealed.”

In 2006, elkhorn and staghorn corals, which occur in Florida and the Caribbean, became the first, and to date only, coral species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The listing of staghorn and elkhorn corals as threatened, which also came in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, marked the first time the U.S. government acknowledged global warming as a primary threat to the survival of a species. As documented in today’s petition, many other corals are also at risk.

Protection under the Endangered Species Act would open the door to greater opportunities for coral reef conservation, as activities ranging from fishing, dumping, dredging, and offshore oil development, all of which hurt corals, would be subject to stricter regulatory scrutiny. Additionally, the Endangered Species Act would require federal agencies to ensure that that their actions do not harm the coral species, which could result in agencies approving projects with significant greenhouse gas emissions to consider and minimize such impacts on vulnerable coral species.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration must respond to the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition to list 83 species of coral within 90 days and determine whether listing is warranted for each of the coral species within one year.

For more information about the Center’s coral conservation campaign, visit: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/coral_conservation/index.html.

Coming this Thursday, many of the petitioned-for corals will also be featured in 350 Reasons We Need to Get to 350 – the Center for Biological Diversity’s photo installation of 350 species we may lose to global warming if we don’t act soon.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with 240,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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