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St Croix

DPNR revises Red Mud suit

By DANIEL SHEA (Daily News Staff)
Published: December 17, 2010
ST. CROIX – The V.I. Waste Management Authority recently was released from the Red Mud lawsuit filed in 2005 by the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

The lawsuit originally was directed at eight companies involved in the aluminum manufacturing and petroleum industries since the 1960s, claiming they had polluted the island’s largest and most productive aquifer.

The companies used chemicals that turned swaths of mud red, giving the lawsuit its name.

“There’s allegations that it’s toxic,” said Waste Management legal counsel, Iver Stridiron.

But some of those companies filed a suit alleging that Waste Management had caused the spread of the pollution to be much greater because the authority had a sewer line that ran underneath that area and spread the pollutants, Stridiron said. Waste Management became a third-party defendant.

Stridiron traveled across the United States and took 40 depositions in an effort to remove Waste Management from the suit. “In the end, the parties agreed that Waste Management had nothing to do with the lawsuit,” Stridiron said. “We are the only ones that have been released from that lawsuit.

The cleanup is estimated to cost $60 million to $100 million, he said.

Other companies listed in the suit are: HOVENSA, Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp., St. Croix Renaissance Group, Pittsburgh-based St. Croix Alumina, Pittsburgh-based Alcoa World Alumina, V.I. Alumina Co., California-based Century Alumina Co. and Lockheed Martin.

Repairs Force WMA to Divert Sewage Over Long Reef

By Source Staff — January 18, 2011

The LBJ sewer system pump station will be taken offline Wednesday and sewage temporarily pumped into the sea for 10 days while a V.I. Waste Management Authority contractor finishes part of the work to replace the LBJ sewer force main, according to the WMA.

VIWMA is advising residents of the LBJ Housing Community and surrounding areas to avoid groundwater in the area as it may be contaminated with sewage.

Contractor GEC is doing the work, which includes:
– Shutting down of the LBJ Pump Station and pumping over Long Reef for roughly 10 days;
– Connecting the newly installed 24-inch force main to the existing system;
– Replacing the flow meter and stand pipe at the pump station; and
– Cleaning the pump station’s wet well.

To complete this work, the LBJ Pump Station will be placed offline Wednesday and will remain offline until Jan. 27th.

According to VIWMA, this is being conducted in accordance and in compliance with the Authority’s Territorial Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit and notification has been provided to the regulatory agencies as required.

This phase of work began with the replacement of a portion of the force main from the LBJ Pump Station, south along the access road and then east along Route 751, which runs adjacent to the LBJ Housing Community toward the WAPA Richmond Plant.

Workers installed roughly 1,300 linear feet of 24-inch PVC piping parallel to the existing force main line.

Once the sewer line work is complete, workers will repair the roadway, sidewalk or road apron, according to VIWMA.

 

Feds sue V.I. over landfills

By CONSTANCE COOPER, reporter, Daily News Staff
Published: July 16, 2010

ST. THOMAS — The federal government has filed a lawsuit against the V.I. Waste Management Authority and the Virgin Islands government that could cost the territory hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for their failure to bring the territory’s landfills up to Environmental Protection Agency standards.

“As a responsible community, we’re finding that if you don’t do enough to comply with regulations in the beginning, you end up paying for the compliance in the end,” Waste Management Authority Director May Adams Cornwall said in an interview. “I would have hoped that we could have done that, not because we had been ordered to do that, but because it was the right thing to do.”

Cornwall said that St. Thomas’ Bovoni landfill, which has been in use since 1970, and St. Croix’s Anguilla landfill, in operation since 1966, were not built to take trash over the long term. She said the authority has made strides toward meeting federal regulations, including awarding a contract and obtaining the necessary permits to build a St. Croix waste transfer station and obtaining $3.8 million in local funds to trap methane being emitted at the Bovoni dump.

“It’s kind of a little bit of a shoot-down when you’re working so hard to get something done,” Cornwall said. But, according to the federal government’s lawsuit, the authority has not been working hard enough. The EPA has been working with the local government for 10 years to bring the landfills into compliance with federal standards.

In June 2000, the V.I. government was tasked with correcting issues at the Bovoni landfill that resulted from improper disposal of medical and septic waste, failure to consistently cover the dump with dirt, improper disposal of used oil, the dumping of lead-acid batteries, contaminants seeping into Mangrove Lagoon and subterranean and surface fires at the dump, according to the lawsuit.

At Anguilla, the V.I. government agreed in September 2001 to correct issues that included failure to consistently cover the dump with dirt, inadequate security, inadequate inspection of garbage loads for hazardous waste, and subterranean and surface fires, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that the Waste Management Authority also agreed to make plans to close both dumps.

In October 2007, the authority submitted a landfill compliance schedule for Anguilla that said the dump would be closed by December 2008, the lawsuit states. In November 2005, the authority submitted a timetable to the EPA that promised that a long-term construction contract for the Bovoni landfill — including execution of the landfill’s closure — would be awarded by June 2008.

As of May 21, the progress with both landfills was deemed unsatisfactory enough that the U.S. Justice Department filed the suit on behalf of the EPA.

The lawsuit seeks the following penalties:

•    A fine of up to $27,500 per day for each violation of the Clean Air Act from April 6, 2001, to March 15, 2004, at the Bovoni landfill

•    A fine of up to $27,500 per day for each violation of the Clean Air Act from April 6, 2001, to March 15, 2004, at the Anguilla landfill.

•    A fine of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of the Clean Air Act from March 15, 2004, to January 12, 2009, at the Bovoni landfill.

•    A fine of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of the Clean Air Act from March 15, 2004, to January 12, 2009, at the Anguilla landfill.

•    A fine of up to $37,500 per day for each violation of the Clean Air Act after January 12, 2009, at the Bovoni landfill.

•    A fine of up to $37,500 per day for each violation of the Clean Air Act after January 12, 2009, at the Anguilla landfill.

Cornwall said that the lawsuit was “regrettable in the sense that it doesn’t send a good message to this community or to the staff that has been working extremely hard,” but added that a court action might help the authority garner the political will to charge waste fees to pay for the management and closure of the territory’s landfills.

The Environmental Protection Agency could not be reached by presstime for comment on the lawsuit.

 

HOVENSA Fined for Violating Clean Air Pollution Regulations

EPA representative briefs V.I. Senate on HOVENSA

By DANIEL SHEA (Daily News Staff)
Published: January 27, 2011

ST. THOMAS – Just before the first break in the day’s proceedings Wednesday at a committee hearing in the V.I. Legislature, Sen. Alicia Hansen asked a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representative to relay a bombshell piece of news to the senators and others present.

“This morning, a consent decree was lodged in the federal court in which HOVENSA was levied more than $5 million in penalties,” said EPA Caribbean Environmental Protection Division Director Carl-Axel Soderberg. “In addition, it has to pay more than a quarter million dollars to the Virgin Islands.”

The news of the filing of the consent decree, which Soderberg said had been in negotiation for more than five years, had been anticipated for weeks. But the recent string of chemical releases by the refinery pushed the matter to the forefront, causing the EPA and U.S. Justice Department to mandate and finalize the order, Soderberg said.

The news came as a surprise to a number of senators on the V.I. Senate’s Government Operations, Energy and Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday.

They said they knew that the EPA was working on resolving issues with HOVENSA but did not realize it was on such a large scale:

– The federal government fined HOVENSA $5.125 million for violating the Clean Air Pollution Regulations.

– $250,000 in fines is to be paid to the Virgin Islands.

– HOVENSA was ordered to establish an escrow fund of $4.875 million for supplemental environmental projects in the territory.

– HOVENSA has to invest $700 million in capital projects over the next decade to reduce its emissions.

“It definitely clarifies for us that HOVENSA has been in violation for some time with its emissions,” Sen. Terrence Nelson said.

V.I. senators have been speaking out in recent months after a series of chemical releases at HOVENSA highlighted what had been a long-standing problem, according to the decree.

Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly had drawn up a bill that would have created a similar escrow account that all territorial polluters would have to contribute to in order to fund a more robust DPNR monitoring program. Rivera-O’Reilly had drafted the bill even before a series of chemical releases began in September.

Shortly after the most serious incident on Dec. 9, when more than 250 students and staff at St. Croix Central High School reported sickness after a release of hydrocarbons from the refinery that morning, a number of other senators began to speak out against HOVENSA.

Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone said he wants to establish an air monitoring network on St. Croix and fund a health study to determine the long-term affect of the refinery’s emissions on the residents downwind. He reiterated his intentions at Wednesday’s hearing.

Sen. Usie Richards also agreed that the territory needs to find funding for studies to track and study the health affects on the community.

He said that the V.I. Health Department needs to be able to test the cisterns of residents, which is another contentious issue because HOVENSA has done the testing and provided its own results to the government.

“It is totally absent and the V.I. Code requires that the Department of Health has those capabilities,” Malone said.

The air-quality monitoring also has been left largely to HOVENSA, except for sporadic testing on the part of the EPA or follow-up testing done in response to a release, Soderberg said.

In addition, HOVENSA must submit quarterly reports on the maintenance of its facility, according to acting DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes.

But almost all of that information is gathered by HOVENSA and then submitted to the regulating agencies. And DPNR only has the staffing capability to perform audits on a three-year basis, officials have said.

DPNR will be in charge of monitoring HOVENSA’s progress with the decree, which could create a staffing issue for the department. There are grants, however, that could fund additional positions, Barnes said.

“The problem I have is that HOVENSA monitors itself,” Sen. Ronald Russell said.

A number of senators were under the impression that the EPA should have been monitoring or at least providing money for monitoring.

“It appears to me that the EPA doesn’t regulate with the same stringent measures that it uses in other states,” Nelson said.

Soderberg tried to dispel any such notion.

“The monitoring systems that have been established in the Virgin Islands are, as far as I know, the same as others that have been established in places like New Jersey and New York,” he said. “The EPA finances some of the establishment of these air-monitoring systems, and they are then run by the state agency.”

Currently, DPNR has only stationary monitors that test for particulate matter and lacks the equipment needed to determine the levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrogen sulfide and hydrocarbons that can be released in refinery discharges.

Many senators have called out the EPA for not playing a greater role.

Sen. Louis Hill wrote a letter to the EPA requesting that the federal agency conduct a health study to determine how the refinery has affected residents’ health. Hill said that the territorial agencies do not have the expertise to monitor the massive refinery.

“This is the first time that I’ve known that the federal government has taken action like this with reference to HOVENSA,” Richards said.

Other senators have emphasized the importance of taking on HOVENSA from the territorial level.

“It should be the local government’s priority, not theirs,” Nelson said, referring to the federal government.

“We can’t wait for anyone else to do it for us. It’s time we start to be noticed here,” Nelson said. “HOVENSA contributes close to $900 million to the U.S. Treasury annually, and we are the ones that have to deal with the pollution.”

– Contact Daniel Shea at 774-8772 ext. 457 or e-mail dshea@dailynews.vi.
Read more: http://virginislandsdailynews.com/news/epa-representative-briefs-v-i-senate-on-hovensa-1.1096193#ixzz1Gd2PSdoW

 

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

Dumping Raw Sewage onto Long Reef

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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