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Bovoni to Fire Up Again, or Not

First responders extinguish a fire that broke out on Sept. 14 at the Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas. (Photo courtesy of Government House)

The report about the Bovoni landfill fire Roger Merritt, executive director of the Waste Management Authority, gave to the Public Services Commission Wednesday differed in tone from the one Daryl Jaschen, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, presented to the Committee on Health, Hospitals, and Human Services earlier in the month.

Both reports contained specific facts. The fire lasted 22 days and took almost 2 million gallons of water to extinguish. The fire was fed by green waste from the 2017 hurricanes. Air quality monitors around the area did not register a dangerous amount of contaminated particulates in the air.

The difference in tone was when Merritt and Jaschen talked about the future. Merritt told the PSC about new policies of accepting green waste at Bovoni and about moving tons of green waste so that a fire would not happen again.

Jaschen’s report to the Senate led Sen. Novelle Francis to remark, “It’s not if, but when, another fire breaks out.”

The reports also differed physically. Merritt’s was brief and verbal. Jaschen had a 10-page written testimony.

Because Meritt’s reports are not written, it has caused concern at the PSC. Commissioner Raymond Williams said at Wednesday’s meeting that though the PSC had made repeated requests, the authority has “failed to provide adequate and accurate information.” After Williams’s comments, Commission Chairman David Hughes said he found discussions with the authority without written reports “unproductive.” Instead of continuing to listen to financial information from WMA, the commission passed a motion mandating the authority submit written reports to the commission five days prior to its meetings.

Jaschen wrote in his report dated Dec. 6 that Fire-EMS Director Daryl George, who oversaw the government response to the fire, told Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. that this was the worst fire he had seen in over 30 years of fighting fires. George died on Oct. 24.

At the Senate hearing earlier this month, Fire Service officials were asked whether there was any progress on relocating a fire hydrant closer to the landfill. A fire department official said that WMA was discussing the hydrant with the Water and Power Authority.

The Source asked WMA in an email if any progress was made on getting a fire hydrant closer to the landfill. WMA never answered.

Jaschen testified, “If it had not been for decisive recommendations by Director George and action by Governor Bryan to sign the State of Emergency, we would still be engaged with, at a minimum, the vegetation fire and potentially additional fires from nearby trash, metal, and oil.”

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