Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. has extended a local State of Emergency for 30 days through Dec. 29, providing ongoing access to resources to address water quality issues on St. Croix. Separately, individuals with minor cannabis convictions may have records expunged.
“Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has ordered a 30-day extension of the local State of Emergency,” said Government House Communications Director Richard Motta Jr., during Monday’s weekly Government House press briefing.
“This decision comes in response to the ongoing situation with elevated levels of lead and copper in the public water system in certain areas of St. Croix. This extension is crucial to addressing this public health concern,” Motta explained.
The executive order was signed by Finance Commissioner Nominee Kevin McCurdy, who serves as acting governor when Bryan and Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach are out of the territory. Bryan has been attending meetings in Washington, D.C., and both he and Roach were away for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“This [extension] allows the government to continue ensuring the safety and well-being of all residents,” Motta said.
Questions remain as to the exact levels of contaminants found in St. Croix’s water system, and the territory is currently awaiting a report from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding their initial test results. The report is expected to be available in several weeks.
“The state of emergency extension will allow us and our federal partners to complete additional testing to confirm prior test results and the levels of lead and copper that may exist,” Motta stated. “We remain steadfast in our desire to provide safe levels of drinking water as well as to implement additional controls to reduce the occurrence of brown water as we work toward the prudent replacement of St. Croix’s water distribution infrastructure,” he continued.
Motta encouraged residents to stay informed about the water situation by visiting CleanWaterUSVI.com.
Representatives from the V.I. Health Department were absent at Monday’s press briefing, and updated information about lead exposure was not provided. However, individuals with concerns related to lead exposure can contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. For information regarding testing for lead, the V.I. DOH hotlines can be reached Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 340-712-6299 and 340-776-1519.
Cannabis Conviction Expungements
In separate news, officials reported that Bryan’s “Cannabis Automatic Expungement Task Force” has been actively reviewing cases of individuals convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana for possible criminal record expungement.
“The Governor’s ‘Cannabis Auto-Expungement Task Force’ is making significant strides under the ‘Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act.’ [The Task Force] is diligently working to identify individuals eligible for expungement of cannabis-related convictions,” Motta reported.
“The Task Force is actively reviewing over 90 cases where individuals were convicted of simple possession of marijuana under Title 19 of the VI Code, Section 607 A, in which the amounts were less than one ounce,” he said.
Persons who have been convicted of a marijuana-related crime with possession over one ounce but less than two ounces may also qualify for expungement.
“Those affected are encouraged to contact the Task Force by emailing their name and criminal case number to [Gov. Bryan’s Special Advisor, Positive Nelson] at Positive.email@example.com,” Motta explained.
“The Task Force is also undertaking the effort to review additional classifications of criminal convictions related to the possession, control, or sale of cannabis,” Motta noted.
“This initiative represents a significant step toward justice, reform, and social equity,” Motta said. “Recognizing the changing perspectives on cannabis use and its legal implications, the Task Force remains committed to ensuring fair and just treatment for all individuals impacted by previous cannabis-related convictions,” he continued.
Holiday Season Updates
Motta also shared information about the holiday season, including the “Governor’s Children’s Christmas Party” events, scheduled to occur later this month.
“The office of Governor Albert Bryan Jr. is thrilled to announce the return of Governor’s Children’s Christmas Parties,” Motta stated. “This year’s events are set to bring joy and holiday spirit to the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John for three days, beginning Dec. 15 and ending Monday, Dec. 18,” he noted.
Residents across the territory are invited to celebrate the holiday season, and gifts will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for children ages 0 to 12. Information about the times and locations of the Christmas Parties is available on the V.I. government’s official Facebook page.
“The highlights of this year’s celebration, of course, will be our special guest, Santa Claus,” Motta said.
Finally, the V.I. government provided its holiday schedule, which includes the closure of government offices for various events through January. A comprehensive list of the 2023 Holiday Schedule is available here.