Sept. 17, 2002 – Sewage problems at Golden Rock have prompted the Planning and Natural Resources Department to come out with an alert.
In a release issued late Monday, Planning and Natural Resources Commission Dean Plaskett advised residents to avoid storm runoff areas, including guts, puddles and drainage basins, and to keep their children out of those areas. Plaskett also urged people with compromised immune systems to avoid standing water in the area.
"That implies that the bacterial load is so high, it's deadly," said Bill Turner, executive director of the St. Croix Environmental Association. He said that on an island with a list of places with sewage woes, this one stands out.
Turner said crews covered the sewage-filled hole on Golden Rock Road with a metal plate.
"This is absolutely a catastrophe," Turner said, and the human and environmental impacts both are huge.
The problems appear to be two-fold. Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood pinned the problem on a blocked manhole at Harbor View Apartments owned by the apartment complex. Public Works is assisting with correcting the problem at Harbor View, he said in a release.
However, Turner said a major problem is a collapsed sewer line in front of Sugar Beach Condominiums. Harbor View and Sugar Beach are in the same area. Turner said crews covered the sewage-filled hole in the area of the collapsed line with metal plate.
Turner said that, to make matters worse, the Public Works Department does not have the pipe on hand needed to repair the line but already has begun digging a trench to replace the collapsed pipe. Digging the trench could send the sewage seaward through a storm drain, he said, but crews may have to make a choice between sewage in the ocean or sewage in someone's front yard.
Callwood, making no mention of a collapsed line in his release, said Public Works plans to replace the line with a larger one that can accommodate the increased flow sewage that has come with population growth in the area. He said intermittent sewage "bypasses" — sewage leaking into the road — will continue in the Sugar Beach area.
Public Works will use a sewer pump truck to clear the existing line while waiting for the pipes to be delivered, Callwood said in the release. He said crews will continue to use chlorine and a deodorizer to control the odor and disinfect the area.
Aaron Hutchins, Planning and Natural Resources Department water pollution control program supervisor, said on Tuesday that as of late Monday some work was done on repairs, but "lots needs to be done."
He was on his way out the door to inspect the area but said he would not be able to provide an update when he returned, since that information would have to come from the commissioner's office.
Turner said SEA has written to the U.S. Justice Department asking that sewage repairs on St. Croix be prioritized so that the worst problems are fixed first.
"This is an environmental justice issue," Turner said, adding that many of the people affected by the problem do not have the financial resources to move or spend nights in hotels to avoid the smell.
He said SEA can't file suit because St. Croix's sewage problems already are the subject of a U.S. District Court consent decree ordering the VI. government to fix the problems.
Turner said the collapsed line is just the latest in a series of sewage problems at Golden Rock since he took the SEA staff position a year ago.
In addition to the Golden Rock problem, Turner said, ongoing sewage problems exist at the Mon Bijou gut, and there are additional problems in Christiansted on Hospital Street, in front of the King Christian Hotel, in front of Crucian Gold on the boardwalk, and in front of the Scotia Bank building on King Street. He said Frederiksted also has sewage problems, including one right in front of the Legislature Building. And Campo Rico has frequent problems.
In the Mon Bijou case, Turned said, the sewage runs right behind two schools. "We have kids exposed to raw sewage," he said.
He said that except for repairs made to the sewage system in Gallows Bay and some improvements in the treatment plants, he has seen no progress. "There are very few places I'd swim on St. Croix," he said.
Public Works Commissioner Wayne D. Callwood was on St. Croix according to aides but could not be reached for comment.
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