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HomeNewsArchivesResidents Express Concern About Water Quality at Coral Bay Meeting

Residents Express Concern About Water Quality at Coral Bay Meeting

Aug. 6, 2007 — Protecting Coral Bay's watershed is urgent, St. John resident Amelia Jones said Monday as more than three dozen people gathered at a Coral Bay Community Council meeting to learn about the pilot watershed protection program now under development.
"The beautiful water here will be gone," she said.
People at the meeting were asked for input on various issues seen during site visits over the past few days by staff at the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP), based in Ellicott City, Md., and the territory's Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
Coral Bay was chosen as a spot for a pilot project because Coral Harbor is impaired with total maximum daily loads (TDML) higher than they should be, said Anne Kitchell of CWP. TMDL is science speak for the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water-quality standards. The area is also listed as an “area of particular concern” by Planning, and it has a strong community group that's concerned about water quality, she said.
"And your concerns were heard by the right people," Kitchell said.
After Kitchell pointed out that the Virgin Islands has good environmental laws on the books, St. John resident Pam Gaffin said she was shocked to hear that.
"All of what you're talking about is wonderful, but they're not enforcing what we have now," Gaffin said.
When Planning officials suggested that residents must learn about the regulations so they can do the right thing, Gaffin objected. In the past, residents could ask their neighbors to resolve issues, but that has changed with the influx of off-island developers, she said.
"We are being raped by developers," she said, launching into a tirade against the Sirenusa condominium project in Cruz Bay. “They're in it for a profit. They could care less about any of this.”
The developers had no storm-water plan, she said. Downhill neighbors complained many times about water, mud and rocks in their yards after it rains.
Environmental staffing may have been a problem in the past, but things are changing, said Anita Nibbs, who manages water programs at Planning's Environmental Protection Division. Planning has a St. John office with representatives from various divisions on hand, added Jean-Pierre Oriol of Planning's Coastal Zone Management Program.
"We've got cars, we've got everything," he said.
Also at issue for some at the meeting was the territory's failure to implement a comprehensive land- and water-use plan.
"This is huge — being able to plan long-term for a community," Kitchell said. “These are things most communities have.”
Such a plan could be developed for Coral Bay rather than waiting for a territory-wide plan, she said.
Residents voiced various concerns about the watershed.
"We need to pave the roads," Bonnie Corbeil said. A lot of the roads need reengineering because they cut off natural drains, Gary Ray added. A lot of the wetlands are filled in, which means storm-water retention plans need to be developed, he said. Ray also suggested that septic tanks be eliminated to eliminate nutrients from flowing downhill into the sea.
CWP and Planning staff will pull together information gathered during their site visit and comments from the meeting over the next few weeks, Kitchell said. More town meetings will be held on the matter.
The project is funded by NOAA's Coral Reef Division and is part of a multi-year training and management program in all U.S. territories. It is aimed at addressing land-based sources of pollution that threaten coral reef ecosystems. CWP has a contract for the study.
Send comments through the Coral Bay Community Council's website.
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