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Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Sept. 28, 2001 – Michael Bornn's "mission" is to raise questions about Caribe Waste Technologies' waste-to-energy gasification plant before it becomes a done deal, he said at a Rotary Club of St. John meeting on Friday.
The St. Thomas resident has used his TV2 talk show and has personally bent the ear of anyone who will listen to let people know the concerns he has about the project as a result of information he has turned up in recent months.
For starters, he told the Rotary audience, the government rejected any other technology but gasification to deal with the territory's huge solid waste problems. Then, it picked Caribe Waste Technologies over eight other companies that submitted proposals, despite the fact that some presented much lower price tags.
Caribe Waste Technologies' bid came in at $168 per ton of waste to be processed, Bornn said, while other companies in the running quoted $30 a ton and $55 a ton. "So, you start to scratch your head and wonder what's going on here," he said to the dozen and a half people at the luncheon meeting, held at the Westin Resort.
He noted that the CWT process goes a step further than the others in order to get rid of the gasification residue, a process he likened to incineration. But he said he thought it was a lot of extra money to spend for the extra step. "I don't think we're in any position to afford a Cadillac," he said, referring to the territory's economic state.
Bornn said the Virgin Islands currently spends $9 million a year to get rid of garbage.
Another of his concerns, he said, is that gasification is an unproven technology for getting rid of garbage — although it has been used since 1910 to create energy. He said that when Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, the late Public Works commissioner, Harold Thompson, and St. Thomas contractor Leroy Marchena went to visit CWT's plant in Germany in 1999, they saw a facility that was closed. CWT has said three such facilities have been built — the one in Germany and others in Italy and Japan.
"I don't want to be a guinea pig," Bornn said.
Rotary president Doug White, who is a strong environmentalist, said he has information that shows the German plant isn't working properly.
Bornn also pointed out that if the plant is built then fails to function properly, the territory would be stuck with the huge problem of how to get rid of its garbage. He said the much cheaper option of creating new landfills was not explored thoroughly. He said it would cost $40 million to build and $10 million a year to operate new landfills on St. Croix and St. Thomas.
Properly designed, constructed and maintained landfills — not to be confused with the existing dumps at Bovoni on St. Thomas and at Anguilla on St. Croix — are not smelly, unattractive sites, Bornn contended. "You can live downwind from a landfill," he said.
He had no answer when V.I. National Park Supt. John King asked why the landfill option was ignored. But St. Thomas resident David Sheahan said it was because nobody wanted them in their back yard.
Bornn explained that the gasification process involves heating containers of waste material so as to remove the oxygen from the material, thereby causing it to decompose at a far faster rate than normal.
He noted that the Water and Power Authority board is deciding whether it wants to agree to buy electricity and water produced by the gasification process for the next 30 years. Selling the output to WAPA is a part of the Caribe Waste Technologies proposal. Bornn pointed out that WAPA officials say the utility can provide sufficient power on its own for customers across the territory. If WAPA agrees to the CWT condition, the proposal will go to the Legislature for a vote.

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