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Letter to NOAA

November 6, 2012

Edward Horton

Chief Administrative Officer

NOAA

edward.horton@noaa.gov

 

Dear Chief Administrative Officer Horton:

                                                                       I am writing to you on behalf of GreenerVI.org, an environmental organization of 4,966 Americans, growing larger every day, and we really need your help. VI Waste Management has been intentionally dumping raw, untreated sewage into our Virgin Islands coastal waters, with the full awareness of the EPA, the Federal District Court and the local government, for the past 29 years. Please see the Federal District Court Order of 3/31/11.

In February, 2010, Regional Administrator Enck sat at my dinner table and promised to soon stop allowing VI Waste Management to dump raw sewage into the very waters where we swim and snorkel, and where the coral and turtles and local fish live.

Since that promise, 2 ½ years ago, VIWMA has dumped an estimated 300 million more gallons of raw, untreated sewage into our coastal waters. We hope you agree that VI Waste Management should not be allowed to keep dumping raw, untreated sewage any longer than 29 years.

Now dozens of our beaches are polluted. Trip Advisor talks of the smell of raw sewage in areas of St. Croix, so this pollution is obviously negatively impacting Tourism, which our economy is based upon, as well as killing the remaining 3% of coral and polluting the nutritional food vital to hawksbill and green turtles, who are also supposed to be protected by your Endangered Species laws.

None of this is accidental. As May Adams Cornwall testified on May 11, 2011, much of the dumping could have been averted by purchasing, repairing and maintaining the necessary pumps. She openly blamed this on executive failure of VIWMA, of which she is the Chief Executive, and admitted VIWMA had not followed the Emergency Court Order of 3/10, even to purchase certain Court Ordered pumps.

Every single dumping of raw sewage is a violation of federal criminal and civil laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, yet no federal agency has taken charge, no one is being held responsible, or accountable, and the dumping continues, often on a daily or weekly basis. By law, the EPA has an absolute duty to report each of these federal violations to NOAA and must formulate a plan to stop the dumping and help our underwater community. We have written dozens of letters to Bureau Chiefs at NOAA, and they say they are following the EPA’s lead, yet the dumping continues.

We filed an Emergency Motion to Intervene/Citizen’s Suit in Federal District Court, against Waste Management and the EPA on May 12, 2011, which is attached. 18 months later, nothing has happened. Administrator Enck says she is currently understandably busy with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on NY and NJ, but why, in 3 decades, are we never a priority? You can read all the filed documents and letters on our website at GreenerVI.org

WAPA, our power company, is also polluting our air and coastal waters, as you can see by the enclosed photos, and WAPA is crippling the people and businesses of the USVI, charging us 600-800% of the average US rate, while working at as low as 13% efficiency, according to a federal audit. Many VI Businesses are struggling endlessly to hang on, or are going into bankruptcy. We have written to the Inspector General’s Office of the Dept. of Energy, who said they would investigate…yet this month we have just gotten another unjustified rate increase.

At this point, we can either plead with the Third Circuit to finally enforce these federal laws, or work together, as we have been requesting of the federal agencies all along. We are asking the Governor and prospective VI Senators to commit to support a joint committee of local government, NOAA, the EPA, Dept. of the Interior and the Dept.of Energy and GreenerVI.org. to work together, to achieve our goals of:

  1.  Finally stopping the dumping of raw, untreated sewage into VI coastal waters;
  2.  Creating recycling centers, with comprehensive structure, funding, and plan implementation;
  3.  Utilizing efficient, environmentally sound energy systems which will substantially decrease cost per customer as low as reasonably possible;
  4. Working with GreenerVI.org, which will maintain a website providing up to date information, schedules, transparency of data, studies, information, a blog so that all caring citizens may weigh in with their thoughts, physical help, equipment, and volunteer fulfillment of work and materials.
  5. Comprehensive study of the coastal waters and a clean-up and rejuvenation plan;
  6. Payment to implement all this through combining discretionary funds from the various federal agencies;
  7. Agreement by the local government to not oppose us, but to work together to achieve these goals.

        It is election day, a tremendous opportunity for change. Senator Sean Michael Malone, and prospective Senators Clarence Payne and Andreas Tietje have proven themselves time and again to be concerned protectors of our environment. We are going to polling areas, and calling on prospective Senators. We hope that all members of the new VI Legislature will agree to make WAPA and VIWMA our joint priority and will agree to a simple pledge that we must work together, now, to protect the environment in which we live. 

We look forward to hearing from you, as soon as possible. We are available by the below phone or email 24/7.

Pledge for Prospective Senators

Dear Editor, VI DailyNews,

                        I hope that all is well with you. GreenerVI.org is now 4,966 strong, with new people signing up every day. I sent you a copy of my letter to the head of NOAA, and it would be great if you could possibly get it into the paper tomorrow, because it affects every Virgin Islander and every business and endangered species here.

 

We are going around to prospective Senators today, as they campaign, and we are asking them to sign this simple pledge:

 

 

 

 

 

We, the prospective Senators of the 30th VI Legislature pledge to uphold the law and demand immediate transparency in VIWMA and WAPA studies, reports, salaries and all documents which legally should be made available to the public and our news agencies. We pledge to make VIWMA stop dumping raw, untreated sewage into our coastal waters and make WAPA more energy efficient, lowering our costs. We pledge to work together, now, with federal agencies and GreenerVI.org, (which has 4,966 citizens), to protect the environment in which we live.

 

Dated: November 6, 2012

Signed:

 

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EPA is Stonewalling Release of Raw Sewage Dumping Amounts

From: Susan Wolterbeek [mailto:susan@greenervi.org]
Sent: Thursday, April 21, 2011 11:28 AM
To: ‘Calderon, Wanda’
Cc: ‘Bellow.Bonnie@epamail.epa.gov’; ‘enck.judith@epamail.epa.gov’
Subject: Please follow federal law and honor my FIOA request of 3-28-11
Importance: High

Dear Ms. Calderon:

I am writing to follow-up, again, on my FOIA request of March 28, 2011, due on or before April 18, 2011.  I still have not received the information requested, namely:

“all wastewater discharges in the USVI since January 1, 2010, including when the discharges commenced, when they stopped, and the quantities involved.”

Pursuant to 5 United States Code 552(a)(4)(F):

(i) Whenever the court orders the production of any agency records improperly withheld from the complainant and assesses against the United States reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs, and the court additionally issues a written finding that the circumstances surrounding the withholding raise questions whether agency personnel acted arbitrarily or capriciously with respect to the withholding, the Special Counsel shall promptly initiate a proceeding to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted against the officer or employee who was primarily responsible for the withholding. The Special Counsel, after investigation and consideration of the evidence submitted, shall submit his findings and recommendations to the administrative authority of the agency concerned and shall send copies of the findings and recommendations to the officer or employee or his representative. The administrative authority shall take the corrective action that the Special Counsel recommends.

Please supply this information immediately. You are already 3 days late, you have stopped even acknowledging my requests, and you yourself are now complicit in postponing my filings in federal district court by continuing to withhold this data which is public information. I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Susan K. Wolterbeek

Is Anyone Home at the EPA?

Please read the two letters to EPA Region 2 Administrator Enck in our Current Crises Page; it is well worth reading.  These two letters are still unanswered since May last year!!!

From: Susan Wolterbeek [mailto:susan@greenervi.org]
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 12:02 AM
To: ‘Bellow.Bonnie@epamail.epa.gov’
Cc: ‘enck.judith@epamail.epa.gov’
Subject: When will I be receiving the Promised reply to letters dated 5/17/10 and 3/2/11?

Dear Bonnie:

When we spoke several weeks ago, you assured me that I would soon be receiving a response to my letters to the Regional Administrator of last May 17, 2010 and March 2, 2011. Will you now please make this a priority?

Your agency refuses to file for contempt or even alert the Court that VIWMA pumped a further 69+ days of raw sewage into our coastal waters. If the rate was again pumped out at 1.2 million gallons per day,  the polluting surpassed last year’s total. The EPA in its new filing has grossly misstated the facts to the Court, and did not even mention to the Court that VIWMA is not giving required warnings to the public. I look forward to receiving the Promised response to my letter to Judith Enck. Sincerely, Susan

EPA Misleads the Court on Severity of Sewage Dumping

From: Susan Wolterbeek [mailto:susan@greenervi.org]
Sent: Monday, April 11, 2011 11:18 PM
To: ‘Gonzalez.EduardoJ@epamail.epa.gov’
Cc: ‘Feinmark.Phyllis@epamail.epa.gov’; ‘SueParten@aol.com’; ‘donald.frankel@usdoj.gov’; ‘Joycelyn.Hewlett@usdoj.gov’; ‘dave@greenervi.org’; ‘enck.judith@epamail.epa.gov’; ‘Bellow.Bonnie@epamail.epa.gov’
Subject: Corrected data- 69 days of bypasses

Dear Eduardo:

I wanted to give you a quick heads up, because your are significantly misstating facts to Judge Gomez. As you can see by the summary I sent you on March 30, 2011, as well as the above communication by VIWMA, Barren Spot was bypassing from March 13, 2011 through March 23, 2011. There were other bypasses by Barren Spot as well:

6/13/2010 Barren Spot PS Pump Coupling Sheared                                                            1 Day  4 Hours

6/28/2010 Barren Spot PS Pump vent line Plugged                                                             1 Hour 15 min.

8/19/2010 Barren Spot PS Pump lost its prime                                                                    1 Hour 45 min.

8/21/2010 Barren Spot PS Couplings were destroyed                                                        15 Hours 30 min.

8/24/2010  Barren Spot PS Couplings were off balanced                                                    2 Hours

8/30/2010  Barren Spot House Pump Failed                                                                        1 Hour 45 min.

9/1/2010-9/3/2010 Barren Spot Broken 8” sewer force main                                  2 Days 5 Hours

9/5/2010-9/7/2010 Barren Spot House Pump Failed                                                  2 Days 9 Hours 30 min.

9/8/2010 Barren Spot PS House Pump Failed                                                                      12 Hours

12/2/2010-12/3/2010 Barren Spot ditch line for diesel pump separated                  1 Day  3 Hours 15 min.

2/23/2011 Barren Spot PS busted discharge hose                                                                 3 Hours 15 min.

3/13/2011-3/23/2011 Barren Spot PS/submersible pump elec. failure             10 Days 7 Hours 15 min.

Total For Barren Spot:                                                                                                 18 days 18 hours 30 min.

Other major bypasses which you did not mention at all were:

4/23/2010-5/3/2010  Broken Force Main LBJ (Figtree had LBJ’s pump)              10 Days

9/8/2010-9/11/2010  LBJ Broken Force Main                                                            2 Days 18 Hours 30 min.

12/18/2010 Lagoon Street PS house pump failed-sewage overflow                           3 days 22 hours

1/4/2011 Weymouth Rhymer PS      Force Main Break Ongoing

1/9/2011-1/14/2011 Humbug II PS Obstructed Force Main                                       5 Days 3 ½ Hours

1/27/2011-2/9/2011 LBJ new force main “10 days 11.5 hrs”                    (actually 13 Days 11.5 Hours)

2/24/2011-3/2/2011 Force main adj to Hovensa Broken Force Main                         6 Days 6 Hours

2/24/2011-3/2/2011 Fig Tree PS  Broken Force Main                                                 5 Days  22 hours

3/21/2011-3/24/2011 NaNa Gut PS   Pump impeller                                                   3 Days 6 Hours

Total for other pump stations:                                                                                   50 Days 17.5 hours plus Weymouth Rhymer

These 69+ Days of pumping raw sewage into our coastal waters are just the ones that I know about, given the incomplete records, and not including the Hurricane Earl mass outages. There may be many more bypasses, but these are the ones I told you about in my summary from the Non-Compliance Reports I received from Jim Casey. I am hoping to soon receive the more comprehensive information from Mr. Modesto and Mr. Font.

Therefore, you may want to correct your statement to the Court.   It appears that VIWMA may have pumped out more raw sewage over our reefs this year than they did last year. Your continued refusal to enforce the statute and move for contempt is inexplicable. Sincerely, Susan

 

VIWMA Dumping Sewage Report are Non-Compliant

Dear Mr. Modesto and Mr. Font:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act I have previously requested, of the EPA:

“all wastewater discharges in the USVI since January 1, 2010,
including when the discharges commenced, when they stopped,
and the quantities involved.”

As you know, Part II of the TPDES Permit Section B General Conditions 18. Availability of Information states that this information shall be made available to the public without further notice. Mr. Casey agreed that this is public information and provided me with the attached Non-Compliance Reports, which themselves are unfortunately woefully incomplete. Some reports simply say “Ongoing” in regard to bypasses during a period of days or weeks when VIWMA has been actively pumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into our coastal waters.  There are no stop dates or quantities listed.  I am attaching a summary of these discharges, as reported in the Non-Compliance Reports.  Please inform me as to the name and title of the people at DPNR and the EPA who have the responsibility of reviewing these documents for compliance with the mandates of federal law, court orders and the TPDES permits.

There were newspaper articles and press releases printed in the VI Newspapers which also indicate further bypasses, for which there are not any Non-Compliance Reports at all.  One example of this is the bypass which occurred on St. Croix April 24-May 3, 2010, as reflected in the attached article.

Therefore, the information requested has not been fully furnished to me. I understand that you would be the people who would have the specific information requested, including where the bypass occurred and why, start dates, stop dates, and the quantity of flow.  Would you please provide this previously requested information, in full, immediately, or as soon as possible, as I will be filing documents with the Federal District Court, this week, and I am endeavoring to be as accurate as possible with the data supplied to the Court. I appreciate your supplying this information, because the court would want it to be supplied now that it is considering the current condition of the wastewater systems, and whether VIWMA has been compliant with previous court orders. Perhaps your counsel has already requested this information.

In addition, please specify the name and title of the people responsible for confirming that every time there is a bypass exceeding 8 hours, that public notice is given according to the TPDES Permit and the Federal Court Order. I understand that DPNR oversees VIWMA, but who at DPNR and who at the EPA are in charge of reviewing this compliance or lack thereof? Were you aware that VIWMA (and DPNR) have not been following this court order and important condition of the TPDES Permit?

Finally, will there be any communication from the EPA to the Triathletes, or from the EPA to the Health Department concerning the triathletes, who will soon be swimming in the affected waters? From a legal perspective, since the EPA is the regulatory agency, it is responsible to the people of the Virgin Islands for allowing VIWMA to continue pumping raw sewage over long reef. I believe it is the EPA’s obligation, at the very least, to give the Department of Health all the facts concerning the bypasses. Please let me know if you intend to do so. Thank you, in advance,  for your prompt reply. Sincerely, Susan K. Wolterbeek

EPA is hiding the Raw Sewage Flow Quantities!

Ms. Calderon:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act I have previously requested, of the EPA:

“all wastewater discharges in the USVI since January 1, 2010,
including when the discharges commenced, when they stopped,
and the quantities involved.”

I have not received that information. I have received Non-Compliance Reports, which do not state the above information. There are no reports, or very limited information, when the very worst bypasses occurred. For example, the EPA proved to the federal district court that between January and March, 2010, VIWMA pumped over 50 million gallons of raw sewage into our coastal waters. Now look at the Non-Compliance reports for that 2 month period. These reports do not give the required start and stop dates,  or the quantities involved. See, i.e. Barren Spot attachment.   It is my understanding that given his prior testimony, Mr. Modesto has this information, and Mr. Font is above him.

VIWMA dumped again April 23-May3, 2010. There are no Non-Compliance Report for those dates. This January-March, 2011, again VIWMA has been pumping raw sewage into our coastal waters. I AM ASKING FOR THIS PREVIOUSLY REQUESTED DATA.

In addition, I am asking for the names and titles of the people in DPNR and EPA who supervise and/or regulate VIWMA. Who reviews VIWMA’s Non-Compliance Reports? Who ensures that VIWMA is following the requirements of the TPDES Permit? Who ensures that VIWMA and DPNR are in compliance with the current court orders in regard to having the necessary, maintained equipment, and giving the public notice when bypasses occur?

Please provide this information. Given the fact that Federal District Judge Gomez was outraged that VIWMA pumped 50 million gallons of raw sewage over our reefs last year, he will want to know the quantity of raw sewage that VIWMA dumped over our reefs this year, and who is responsible.    I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible. Sincerely, Susan K. Wolterbeek

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