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WAPA to Use Pollution Settlement Funds to Improve East End Water

Oct. 26, 2007 — Thanks to a memorandum of understanding between the Planning and Natural Resources Department and the V.I. Water and Power Authority, residents on the East End of St. Thomas will see improvements in their potable water supply.
WAPA plans to spend the $5 million in settlement funds that came from companies that contaminated the Tutu aquifer.
"The government sought to recover damages," Planning spokesman Jamal Nielsen said.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Coordinator Jim Casey identified those companies as the Esso and Texaco gas stations and O'Henry dry cleaners, all located in the Tutu area. The companies contaminated the aquifer with gasoline, chlorinated organic compounds and chlorinated volatile organic compounds.
The contamination was discovered in 1987.
Nielsen said that Planning Commissioner Robert Mathes, who as commissioner serves as the trustee of the money, agreed that since it was East End residents who suffered from the contamination, they should reap the benefit.
The memorandum lasts for five years.
WAPA has set priorities for the spending the money.
First on the list is the fourth phase of the Red Hook distribution and transmission line. According to the memorandum, it will expand the system from Red Hook pond area to Eudora Kean High School for a distance of about 3,750 feet. The high school will be the main beneficiary of this project and will eliminate the need to truck water to the school from the WAPA standpipe in Sub base.
The estimated cost is $1.31 million and the project should take about 2-1/2 years.
Refurbishing and upgrading the Donoe storage tank to hurricane and seismic resistant standards is second. This 5.5-million gallon tank serves Tutu Valley, Bovoni, Smith Bay, and starting in 2008, St. John. The work is already started and should be done by December.
This project will cost $1.98 million.
Third is the acquisition of the property and design of a five-million gallon water storage tank on the East End. WAPA will pay for the tank, but the cost to the settlement will run about $500,000. WAPA estimates it will take about three years for the entire project.
WAPA then plans to construct a truck stand pipe on the East End. The authority must first identify a location on the East End. It will serve East End residents who rely on trucked water. This project is expected to cost $400,000 and take two to four years to complete.
WAPA will also expand service in the Tutu Valley block 173 area and in Frydendahl. This will make potable water and fire protection available to 200 residents in each community.
The Tutu Valley portion is expected to cost $2 million and take a minimum of three years. The Frydendahl section will cost $1.9 million and take a minimum of two years.
Last on the list is a water treatment system located at the Donoe tank site. It will ensure the water is safe for human consumption.
This project is expected to cost $200,000 and take a minimum of two years to complete.
Casey said cleanup of the Tutu aquifer is ongoing. He said it's not possible to say when it would be done, but said the site-wide cleanup on the aquifer began in 2003.
He said cleanup stations are located at the Education Department's Curriculum Center and across and down the road from Four Winds shopping center.
Casey said that work on the soil, which began in 2004, is intermittent because the amount of contaminants is substantially reduced.
Casey said that work at the Esso and Texaco gas stations and O'Henry dry cleaners is done because the level of contaminants is reduced to the levels that were set when that portion of the cleanup began in 1998.
"They have to continue to monitor it, though," Casey said.
WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn was out of the office for the day. Other WAPA officials could not be reached for comment.
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