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HomeNewsArchivesWMA Director Details Budget, Lashes Out at EPA Lawsuits

WMA Director Details Budget, Lashes Out at EPA Lawsuits

In Senate budget hearings on St. Croix Thursday, the V.I. Waste Management Authority defended a projected $37 million operating budget for Fiscal Year 2011.
Of that total, $28 million is an appropriation from the government’s General Fund. Another $9.2 million comes in special, locally appropriated funds, which include $3.8 million in the Antilitter and Beautification Fund, $3 million in the Sewer Wastewater Fund, $1.3 million in the St. John Capital Improvement Fund, $300,000 in the Tourism Revolving Fund and $800,000 from the miscellaneous section of the budget for the WMA’s Household Hazardous Waste Program.
The General Fund appropriation is $2 million, or 7 percent less than FY 2010. However, the special funds budget is $2 million more.
WMA Executive Director May Adams Cornwall said WMA can withstand the regular appropriation budget cuts if WMA receives the recommended extra $2 million from special funds and $800,000 for the household hazardous waste.
Approximately $6 million out of the authority’s FY 2011 General Fund budget will be put toward salaries and wages, funding 132 positions, of which 19 are exempt or unclassified. About $541,000 from the General Fund is earmarked for supplies.
According to the Legislature’s post-audit report, WMA diverted over 30,000 tons of scrap metal from Bovoni Landfill, 25,000 tires from Anguilla landfill, 12,000 e-waste items (like broken cell phones and old computer monitors), and over 1,600 fluorescent bulbs.
On the wastewater end of operations, the WMA is fighting a lawsuit filed in July by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force the closure of both landfills by January 2011. Cornwall said the suit was a waste of time, effort and money because WMA was already working hard to close the landfills.
To that end, WMA has been working on closure plans, which include building a transfer station, installing gas control and burning facilities, and capping the mountains of trash on the two sites. Plans to have Alpine Energy Group use household waste to generate power have been delayed by the late decision to change to a smaller facility that will not burn cheap petroleum coke, but a new agreement is in the works, Cornwall said.
The EPA has been "well informed of the progress," funding issues and challenges of efforts to close the landfills, she said. Yet, "with designs completed, permits issued and significant federal grants and local bond proceeds already expended and more available, they have decided to sue the government of the Virgin Islands in District Court to have the court order the WMA to do that which we are already doing," she said.
In other environmental matters, Cornwall said the territory’s wastewater treatment plants were edging closer to ending a series of U.S. District Court consent decrees that have been in place since the mid-1980s.
"The U.S. Department of Justice and EPA have concurred with the removal of two of the four remaining wastewater treatment plants from the … consent decree,“ she said, ”which would bring the Virgin Islands one step closer to final termination of that court order.”
Also on the wastewater front, earlier this year, pump failures at the Figtree Pump Station caused sewage to be pumped into the sea for an extended period of time. The situation arose because two house pumps failed while a third was out for repairs in Puerto Rico, Cornwall said.
Compounding matters, a brand new standby diesel backup pump’s capacity was apparently restricted due to the poorly engineered pump-around piping system, she said.
Because of the history of difficulties, the pumps will ultimately be replaced with “more reliable pumps similar to those at the LBJ and Lagoon Street Pump Stations, which have not failed in over five years of operation," she said. A recent Interior Department grant will pay for the pumps, a necessary hydraulic study and spare pumps and parts, she said.
No votes were taken at the information gathering hearing. Present were Sens. Dowe, Craig Barshinger, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Sprauve and Terrence "Positive" Nelson. Sens. Wayne James and Louis Hill were absent.

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