Feb. 4, 2004 – Speaking at a Rotary West gathering on Tuesday night, Sonia Nelthropp, the Public Works Department's point person for its sewage systems, focused on problems at the Frederiksted pump station and the potential impact of the newly enacted Waste Management Authority on St. Croix's deteriorated wastewater system overall.
One thing is clear, according to Nelthropp: Overhauling the system is a huge and highly costly undertaking that will uncover more problems and most likely incur more expenses before solving the systemic problems.
Nelthropp, the department's wastewater and solid waste manager, summarized the complexity of problems at the Lagoon Street pump station at the end of last week: "The pumps were down, there were breaks in the line, there was no 'T' in the line to wrap around to the pump station," she said. "And when the line was finally located, there were three 90-degree turns in the line before it go to where it was supposed to go."
Overall, she said, it was clear evidence "of a system that has deteriorated over the years from neglect."
The Lagoon Street station is one of three serving the town areas of St. Croix. The others are LBJ and Fig Tree in the Christiansted area. All will be overhauled, she said.
Meanwhile, she said, more than 1,200 manholes have been inspected islandwide, utilizing a television technology system. The inspections have revealed such problems as solidified grease blocking pipes, pipes that should be round but instead are elliptical due to caved-in roofs, and pipes that are disjointed due to shifting and massive collapses. "Once the overall evaluation is done, repair will begin," she said.
Repairs are to be funded out of $5 million from the government's $268 bond issue in December, she said.
Seminars will be held and training sessions will be conducted to make contractors aware of the scope and complexity of the work, she said, and to advise them of the types of equipment that will be needed to carry it out. The television system will enable workers to see into the sewer lines and pinpoint the location of specific problems, she said.
"As we bring the system up, we are watching specific areas; we are trying to establish continuity," Nelthropp said. But, she added, "There will be problems … because the system has no integrity."
Regarding the Waste Management Authority, Nelthropp said its governing board will not be like other boards in the territory, in that it will have only one cabinet-level member, the commissioner on Public Works. The other seats will be held by two government representatives and two community members.
By law, the board members are to have expertise in such areas as engineering, construction management, business and finance, she said, and there will be separate operations for St. Croix and for St. Thomas-St. John; each with oversight for problems specific to that district. The governor has 60 days from his Jan. 22 signing of the act in which to appoint the members.
The WMA officials in each department district "will be able to determine what is important to them and how they want to see their money spent in their district," Nelthropp said.
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