June 3, 2002 – Negotiations with a bidder selected by a review board will resume Friday in hopes of reaching agreement Saturday on an interim proposal to deal with St. Croix's solid waste after Dec. 31, Property and Procurement Commissioner Marc Biggs told the Senate Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection Monday.
But Biggs gave no hint as to the bidder's identity or approach to the problem. Pressured by Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen to divulge the waste-treatment methodology, he answered that "the procurement rules do not allow me to divulge the names, prices, processes or techniques that may be unique to each firm." Doing so, he added, "can jeopardize the future bargaining position of the government."
The Federal Aviation Administration has threatened to impose sanctions if the Anguilla landfill is not shut down by the end of this year. It could cut off funding for the expansion of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport or actually shut the airport itself down, although FAA officials have said there are no plans to do that.
While federal authorities have cited the landfill — and the Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas — over the years for numerous environmental violations, the FAA is concerned about aircraft safety. Its officials say smoke from fires at the Anguilla dump and birds that feed there pose hazards to planes landing and taking off. On May 20, an American Eagle takeoff was aborted after a bird flew into one of the plane's turbo-prop engines seconds before liftoff.
The FAA issued its ultimatum more than a year ago.
"We are now talking crunch time and six months to go," Gordon Finch, Port Authority executive director, told the senators Monday. "The most important thing for the FAA is the schedule that will allow for the Anguilla landfill to be closed."
He said agency officials don't care what technology is used to process the solid waste, but they are firm that there be no landfill within 10,000 feet of a runway.
Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett said a new federal law prohibits the locating of a new landfill in a seismic zone that the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico fall into. "Everything hinges on us getting approval from EPA for our state landfill proposal," he said.
However, Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood said: "I have met with the FAA, and they are pleased with the progress thus far."
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg asked Finch if the FAA would accept an alternative technology at the Anguilla site as opposed to relocating the dump to a new site which might prove unacceptable and controversial to St. Croix residents. "You are going to have the same outcry, no matter where you want to move it," he said.
"If we can't site a landfill, then we have to move ahead with some other sort of technology," Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole, committee chair, said.
Sen. Adelbert Bryan proposed relocating to an area in Estate Body Slob on Centerline Road west of Ville La Reine Shopping Center. That was a debris collection and burning site used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the V.I. government after Hurricane Hugo.
Other senators have objected to the site in the past, citing its proximity to Central High School, Alfredo Andrews Elementary School and the housing communities of Friedensberg, Clifton Hill and La Reine. Donastorg and Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen reminded their colleagues again Monday of respiratory complaints at the high school during the post-Hugo debris burning.
Voicing strong opposition Monday was Roan Creque, solid waste management specialist. He said studies have been done over the years on the effects of dioxins released into the air and ib groundwater systems at refuse burning sites. Bryan asked Creque to provide the committee with copies of the studies he referred to.
Also discussed were concerns about hazardous waste incineration at both Juan F. Luis and Roy L. Schneider Hospitals.
Along with emission guidelines for medical waste incineration are performance standards outlining the methods for testing certain pollutants which are emitted and then disbursed in the surrounding communities of Ruby, Sion Hill, Queens Quarter and Peppertree Terrace.
Plaskett said, "While an initial stack test is required for pollutants such as dioxins, furans, lead, cadmium and mercury, annual stack testing is not required." He noted that the hospitals receive waste from various clinics, laboratories and doctors' offices and that this "reduces the likelihood of waste being illegally commingled with municipal solid waste" at the landfills.
If the territory were to face a forced landfill shutdown, he said, it would cost the V.I. government $350 a ton to ship the solid waste off island.
Annual tests are required for hydrogen chloride, but they can be reduced to once every three years, depending on the testing results. Plaskett said no tests have been conducted at either hospital since the initial testing at Luis in 1995 and at Schneider in 1997.
Over the last six months, weekly inspections and assessments have resulted in stricter compliance and more efficient operations at the landfills, he said, citing 11 violations along with eight areas of improvement.
Violations included operating without a permit, improper disposal of lead-acid batteries and rubber tires, corroded steel drums leaking into soil, the presence of scavengers on site and no earthen coverage to prevent the spread of disease. Improvements included fencing of site, posting of operating hours, anti-litter officers on site to monitor and issue citations, and enforcement against scavengers.
But Public Works remains in non-compliance on some issues, Plaskett said, and it faces quarterly fines as a result. Areas of non-compliance include no attendant on site to direct unloaders of trash and debris, animals roaming the site, no procedures in place to prevent sewage and hazardous waste from being discharged at site, and no clean-up of airborne paper and debris littering the area.
None of those testifying addressed the sewage problems on St. Croix, but during the session Callwood received a telephone call concerning a sewage problem on the island.
Committee members present were Sens. Bryan, Cole, Donastorg, Alicia Hansen, Emmett Hansen II and David Jones. Sen. Roosevelt David was absent.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.