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Cruz Bay
Wednesday, October 5, 2022


When it comes to dealing with soil run off, untreated sewage disposal, toxic waste and other nonpoint source pollution, which ultimately end up in the water, the territory needs solutions. And the resounding sentiment at day one of the fifth annual conference to address nonpoint source pollution was that progress has been made, but much more has to be done.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, chair of the Legislature's Planning and Environmental Protection committee, made an appeal for more active efforts at Wednesday's Nonpoint Source Pollution Conference.
"I think more and louder voices need to be heard," he said. Donastorg, and later, local farmers, stressed changes they feel need to be made with the government.
"The very worst pollutant is the V.I. Government — that is no secret," Donastorg said.
Local farmer, Elridge Thomas, said the government has been "worse than the hurricanes," because farmers get "too much lip service from politicians. The government needs to embrace agriculture for what it is worth."
The theme of this year's conference, organized by the Nonpoint Source Pollution Committee, was "A Commitment to Clean Water."
Over 100 people, including representatives from federal and local environmental agencies and local farmers, discussed various clean water action plans, the Federal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program, salt ponds and the economics of protecting the environment from such pollution. The conference went on all day Wednesday at the Palm Court, Harbor View.
"At DPNR [ Department of Planning and Natural Resources], our goal is not only to improve the water quality, but also to inform individuals so they can make informed decisions," Dean Plaskett, acting commissioner of Planning and Natural Resource, said, stressing the relationship between earth change permits and protecting the territory's mangroves, coral reefs, and coastal zones.
LaVerne Ragster, vice president for Research and Public Service at the University of the Virgin Islands, called water the "universal solvent" and said the nonpoint source pollution problem was regional.
"This is a participatory, inclusive, approach that will always be easier to talk about than to put into action," she said.
Panelists discussed ways to avoid contamination to ground water and wet lands by preserving the salt ponds, planting vegetation to preserve topsoil, proper disposing of household products like over cleaners and paint thinner, research, awareness, networking and the channeling of efforts.
There are 13 watersheds in the territory. Watersheds are defined as masses of land that drain toward a lake or body of water. They are categorized from one to four in terms of level of water degradation — one being the most degraded — were identified in the territory.
Category one watersheds were listed in order of priority. St. Croix: Bethlehem, HOVIC – St. Croix Alumina, Airport, Diamond, Christiansted, Southgate and Great Pond Bay. St. Thomas and St. John: Benner Bay, St. Thomas Harbor and Long Bay, Fish Bay, Magen's Bay and Great Cruz Bay.
In addition, new criteria established by the Environmental Protection Agency, which provides funding to combat such sites, were discussed. Territories and states must meet the criteria, which includes setting explicit goals, collaboration, and a feed back "loop," in order to receive funding as of the year 2000.
Day two of the conference begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday and the registration fee is $10.

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