Jan. 16, 2004 – Two more politicians chimed in publicly Friday on the St. Croix sewage situation and its apparent influence on the decision of the Radisson Diamond cruise ship not to proceed with a planned visit to the island on Saturday.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, serving as acting governor, directed his ire at Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood for what an afternoon release from Richards' office termed the department's "laissez faire approach to the horrendous sewage problem that continues to plague St. Croix."
The flow of sewage into the sea "must be prevented by all means necessary," Richards said. "It is a health hazard, No. 1. And second, it is causing further economic hardships for the people of St. Croix."
Richards, a former St. Croix senator, directed Callwood to "supervise, monitor and ensure that the necessary tasks are completed to stop the flow of sewage into the sea," the release stated, and to work all weekend if necessary to get the job done.
Sen. Roosevelt David, meantime, issued a release on Friday afternoon calling the diversion of the luxury 350-passenger cruise ship to Virgin Gorda "appalling."
"If it is not crime, or berthing facilities" keeping cruise lines away, "what is it?" the St. Thomas senator said. "It is human waste, excrement and feces, running into the Frederiksted public beach, the Lagoon Street gut and the Frederiksted pier. This is unacceptable."
David also raised the question of what impression the passengers would have gotten if the ship had docked at Frederiksted: "that we let our residents live in inhumane conditions not warranted in any country."
All that remained for Saturday of the business community's earlier expectations that the ship would spend the day in port was the special, free Sunset Jazz concert scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Veterans Park along the Frederiksted waterfront. (See "Senators fume over Crucian cruise ship fiasco".)
The latest breakdown at the Lagoon Street pump station, which prompted public health advisories over the last month from the Planning and Natural Resources Department, is the latest in a long litany of sewage system failures on St. Croix dating from the 1980s. The territory has been ordered numerous times by federal District Court and Environmental Protection Agency authorities to address the problems and has been fined repeatedly for failing to do so.
According to Richards' release, Callwood said that General Engineering Contractors personnel began emergency repair work on Friday to install "a pump that will connect with a 'T' bypass at the Lagoon Street pump station and route the flow of sewage to the Anguilla wastewater treatment plant. This will immediately curtail the hazardous flow of wastewater in the Lagoon area of Frederiksted."
The emergency repairs "will be completed by Monday," Callwood pledged.
Last weekend, a Public Works crew spent Saturday repairing a broken sewer line in Christiansted.
Richards' release also said that he "demanded that all department heads involved in addressing the territory's wastewater problems do so with a dire sense of urgency."
As for David, he said: "When sewage is affecting the quality of life for our residents and the economic benefit for St. Croix is at stake, the first priority should be how to correct the problem." He further took a cue from Sen. Ronald Russell of St. Croix, who at a committee meeting on Thursday called for "civil disobedience" on the part of government workers, saying he wished that they "wouldn't work until the sewage [system] is fixed."
"I am not proposing 'civil disobedience' in the streets of St. Croix," David said, "but if this challenge is not resolved, the residents of St. Croix must unite and come to a peaceable conclusion in order to live better lives."
The only administration official to have publicly denied that Frederiksted's sewage problems were to blame for the Radisson Diamond being diverted from St. Croix is Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards, who on Thursday attributed the change of itinerary to a "technical problem."
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