Starting Saturday, the V.I. Water and Power Authority will distribute water vouchers to St. Croix residents who live in the areas affected by lead and copper in their water supply, CEO Andrew Smith announced Wednesday.
The vouchers, which will be issued as coupons redeemable for bottled water at designated businesses over the next 90 days, will be distributed from Saturday through Monday, Nov. 18 to 20, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Smith said.
Representatives from WAPA, VITEMA, the departments of Health, Planning and Natural Resources, and Human Services, the V.I. National Guard and VI Police Department are coordinating this effort to ensure an efficient process at the distribution stations, he said.
Officials estimate more than 8,500 people living on St. Croix lack safe municipal water because of lead and copper content that was discovered during testing at the end of September. While cistern water is generally free from these heavy metals, many of these people may rely on WAPA water alone.
Emergency response officials disclosed a plan Nov. 7 to issue vouchers for free bottled water to these 3,431 affected households.
The lead and copper contamination was discovered while looking for the source of red and brown water coming from people’s facets.
The water was not discolored because of lead and copper but because it had sat in old, corroding iron pipes. These same aged pipes were to blame for elevated lead and copper levels — however, it was entirely possible to have no metals in discolored water and dangerous levels of metals in clear water. One did not indicate the other.
Following is the voucher registration information:
Pre-registration: Eligible residents of the affected communities listed below are strongly urged to pre- register for the coupons at www.cleanwaterusvi.com to reduce line delays. The online portal will open on Thursday afternoon. Upon arrival at the distribution station, the recipient should present the approval code and personal identification.
Walk up registration: Eligible residents must present personal identification and the WAPA water account number (can be found on the most recent bill). Renters who may not have a WAPA bill in their name or a lease verifying residency, must present a picture ID, and will be required to sign an affidavit confirming eligibility.
Residents of communities managed by the Virgin Islands Housing Authority will be notified by their housing manager how to receive their coupons and will not need to visit the distribution centers this weekend. These communities are Aureo Diaz Heights, Candido Guadalupe, and Williams Delight.
Residents who participate in the Human Services Department’s “Meals on Wheels” program and those on the agency’s waiting list will be delivered water by the agency’s personnel.
All other water customers residing in the affected areas who are unable to visit the distribution centers from this Saturday through Monday should stay tuned to media outlets for further information about time and location for additional voucher distribution.
Distribution locations are as follows and signage will be posted at each site to assist residents through the process:
Distribution Station #1 — drive-thru only: Parking lot adjacent to the Midre Cummings Park, Frederiksted, Saturday and Sunday service for water customers residing in La Grange, Smithfield, Wheel of Fortune, Two Brothers, White Lady, Hannah’s Rest, Campo Rico, Whim, and Stoney Ground.
Distribution Station #2 — walk up only: Agricultural Fairgrounds, Estate Lower Love (eastern entrance), Saturday, Sunday and Monday service for water customers residing in Grove Place, St. Georges, Adventure Hill, Paradise, Mount Pleasant (South), Williams Delight, Profit, and Castle Burke. Customers from other affected neighborhoods listed may also walk up at this location on Monday as the other locations will be closed.
Distribution Station #3 — drive-thru only: John H. Woodson Junior High School, Saturday and Sunday service for WAPA water customers residing in Colquohoun, Mon Bijou, Barren Spot, Diamond (West), Strawberry Hill, Sion Farm, St. John, and Montpellier (East).
Redemption Centers for coupons:
Water coupons may be redeemed at these St. Croix locations: The Market, Plaza East, both Pueblo locations, and Blue Mountain Water.
Coupon books are valued at a total of $100. Each coupon is valued at $10 and must be fully redeemed when used. There will be no cash exchanges, refunds or rebates permitted. Coupons will expire within 90 days of receipt.
For more information about the water distribution program, visit www.cleanwaterusvi.com.
Smith reminds the public that the utility’s water remains safe for bathing, flushing, cleaning and laundering clothes, however a “no drink” advisory is still in effect for consuming and cooking. Health Department hotlines are available for residents with health concerns related to lead in potable water at 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources also operates a hotline related to concerns on water sampling at 340-514-3666. All hotlines operate Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.