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EPA Complicit – Grossly Understating Raw Sewage Dumping

This is what we got in response from the EPA:

From: Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov [mailto:Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov]
Sent: Saturday, April 30, 2011 8:36 PM
To: Susan Wolterbeek
Subject: Re: EPA has allowed at VIWMA to continue dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into our territorial waters, despite court order and federal laws designed to protect us

Thanks. We will get back to you in about 2 weeks
Sent by EPA Wireless E-Mail Services

The following is an emailed letter sent to the EPA, NOAA,  The Center For Biological Diversity and the VI Daily News

Susan K. Wolterbeek
President, GreenerVI.org
P.O. Box 306658
St. Thomas, VI 00803-6658

April 29, 2011

Judith Enck
Regional Administrator
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
New York, New York 10007-1866
Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov

Administrator Enck:
We Virgin Islanders have a legal right to not have our Caribbean coastal waters filled with raw sewage. Don’t you agree? Although I met with you last May about this, and have written to you several times imploring the EPA to stop allowing millions of gallons of raw sewage to be dumped into our coastal waters, your agency still has not regulated VIWMA.

In the past year since the Court Order of 3/18/10, VIWMA has dumped raw sewage for at least 87 days according to the records which came from your office, and newspaper articles. Last year the rate testified to and reported in the VI Daily News was that raw sewage was pumped out at 1.2 million gallons per day.

If the rate is the same, that means since the 3/18/10 Court Order, 104 million gallons of raw sewage were dumped where people swim and fish, dive and snorkel, where Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles eat, and where Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral live. We humans and these Endangered Species are protected by federal laws which your agency is sworn to uphold.

Nevertheless, within weeks VIWMA had violated the Court Orders, as I kept telling you, yet the dumpings continued, and your agency would not and will not file for Contempt, Receivership, Sanctions, or even alert NOAA that your agency’s actions, each of those bypasses, have occurred, each of which are separate violations of the Endangered Species Act.

I formally requested of your office, through the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), the start and stop dates and rate of flow of every bypass of raw sewage in the Territory since 1/1/10. Your office supplied me with many Non-Compliance Reports, but there are significant gaps. The 50 million gallons of raw sewage pumped over Long Reef January-March last year is not reflected in the Non-Compliance Reports for that time period, except for 2 reports, of LBJ and Barren Spot Pump Stations, which simply say “ONGOING BYPASS”.

There have been 150 Non-Compliance Reports, since the 3/18/10 Court Order, and a few of those said “ONGOING BYPASS”, too, which itself is not compliant with federal law or the TPDES Permit, and without start and stop dates, the bypasses may have continued for days, weeks, months, or they are still ongoing, so the actual days of bypass since the 3/18/10 Court Order may be significantly higher than 87. Further, there was a newspaper article about a 10 day bypass of raw sewage over Long Reef April 24-May 4, 2010, right when the Ironman Tri-athletes were swimming in the affected waters, yet there are no Non-Compliance Reports furnished for those dates. How many other major bypasses did not get written into Non-Compliance Reports?

Because the Non-Compliance Reports are woefully incomplete, I have repeatedly renewed my FOIA Request for the start and stop dates and rate of flow from your office so that I may give the Federal District Court accurate figures, yet your FIOA Officer will not release this information, without explanation, in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 552 (6)(A)(i).

In the EPA’s Final Submission, filed with the Federal District Court on 4/11/11, instead of informing the Court about this horrific 87 days bypassing of 104 million gallons of raw sewage which your agency has allowed to continue, your attorneys alluded to some small bypasses and specifically mentioned a Barren Spot 3 day bypass to the judge, [which was in truth March 13-23, 2011, 10 days, by your own records]. The EPA further failed to tell the Court about VIWMA’s continued Contempt of Court Orders by refusing to warn the public with required Public Notices and posting signs on affected beaches. What thought or care is being given to those most at risk-the elderly, pregnant women, people with immune deficiencies, and what of the turtles and coral which live in those waters?

Since the EPA will not give the Court this vital information of VIWMA’s continued willful violation of federal laws and contempt of Court Orders, it falls to us citizens to do the work. We need this continued dumping of raw sewage to stop now, and forever. I am preparing a Citizen’s Suit through a Motion to Intervene, and am asking that your agency now provide to the Public, and the Court, the full, unredacted details of all raw sewage bypasses since 1/1/10, including start dates, stop dates and rates of flow. Further, please tell me whom, if anyone, the EPA has contacted at NOAA, the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior concerning these bypasses, as each of these agencies is affected and should have been notified.

I look forward to hearing from you in regard to these issues, as soon as possible.

Sincerely

Susan K. Wolterbeek
President, GreenerVI.org

cc: Lisa Jackson, Administrator, EPA
Thomas Bigford, NOAA
Miyoko Sakashita, Oceans Director, Center For Biological Diversity
Lowe Davis, VI Daily News

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.

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