Aug. 26, 2002 - It's official. Gov. Charles Turnbull announced last week that he signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that allows 20 percent more rum production on St. Croix.
The governor had announced the deal in late July. The estimated $13 to $15 million a year in rum tax generated by the increase will go to pay for upgrading the territory's sewage treatment facilities.
"The revenue derived from the increased rum production will be used to guarantee financing of the improvements to the territory's wastewater treatment systems," Turnbull said in a news release.
The agreement was the result of negotiations with the U.S. Justice Department and the EPA. It gives the government until Feb 28, 2006, to bring St. Croix into compliance with a U.S. District Court consent decree and until Feb. 28, 2007, to achieve compliance in St. Thomas. Preliminary work on both islands is slated to begin by Oct. 1.
St. John's new sewage treatment plant went on line last year, so that island's sewage treatment system is not in need of a major overhaul. And St. Thomas has a new sewage treatment plant at the Mangrove Lagoon.
Under a consent decree originally issued by U.S. District Court in 1984 and amended in 1996, the government was slated to bring its sewage treatment system up to snuff by 2004. This was not physically or financially possible.
The governor said that V.I. Rum Industries Ltd., St. Croix's only rum producer, had applied to the Planning and Natural Resources Department to renew its pollutant discharge elimination system permit required to discharge waste while producing rum. The request asks for an increase in allowable discharge by 20 percent from 115,000 gallons a day to 138,000 gallons a day.
The signing of the memorandum took place Aug. 21 at the Battery on St. John. Jane M. Kenny, Region II administrator for the EPA, signed on behalf of the U.S. Interior Department.
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