84 F
Cruz Bay
Sunday, July 21, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsBryan Announces V.I. Supreme Court Nomination, End of Water Advisory for STX

Bryan Announces V.I. Supreme Court Nomination, End of Water Advisory for STX

A nomination to the territory’s top court and the end of a drinking water advisory for residents of St. Croix were among the announcements that Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. packed into his 90-minute State of the Territory Address on Monday night.

Judge Harold Willocks (V.I. government photo)
Judge Harold Willocks (V.I. government photo)

The governor has nominated Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks — a “consummate public servant” — to the V.I. Supreme Court, saying in a press release that the “decision comes as part of the ongoing development and enhancement of the Virgin Islands Judiciary.”

“The Virgin Islands Supreme Court has been a pillar of justice and fairness. Tonight, I am honored to nominate Judge Harold W.L. Willocks, a jurist of impeccable caliber, to join this esteemed body,” Bryan said.

Willocks’ extensive legal experience spans more than two decades, marked by notable positions such as presiding judge of the Superior Court, chief public defender, and Assistant Attorney General. His tenure on the Superior Court for more than two terms has exemplified his commitment to upholding the law and serving the community, the governor noted.

“Judge Willocks is a son of the soil, whose deep understanding of our community and its needs has been evident throughout his career. His elevation to the Supreme Court is not just a personal achievement but a testament to his lifelong dedication to public service,” Bryan said of Willocks, who was born in Christiansted to Ebenezer and Claudia Willocks and graduated from St. Croix Central High in 1975.

The governor also noted that apart from his judicial responsibilities, Willocks is also recognized as a published author, further showcasing his intellectual depth and understanding of legal principles. His most often cited work is “The Umbilical Cord,” a history of the U.S. Virgin Islands from pre-Columbian times to the present that is used as a text in history classes at the University of the Virgin Islands. His works contribute significantly to the legal literature and discourse in the Virgin Islands, the release stated.

“His appointment will undoubtedly fortify the judiciary’s role in our democracy, ensuring that justice is served with wisdom and compassion,” said Bryan.

Inaugurated on Jan. 29, 2007, the V.I. Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all appeals from the V.I. Superior Court. While it is currently served by Chief Justice Rhys S. Hodge and Associate Justices Maria M. Cabret and Ive Arlington Swan, up to four associate justices may be appointed. Willocks’ nomination will now go before the 35th Legislature for confirmation.

In other news, Bryan announced that the advisory against drinking the potable WAPA water on St. Croix over lead contamination concerns has been lifted with the expiration of the federal state of emergency designation on Tuesday.

The update comes after months of concern about St. Croix’s potable water supply after testing for the cause of brown water coming from many people’s faucets in late September found 35 of 66 WAPA lines tested positive for elevated lead and copper levels. One unspecified test site was at 20,100 parts per billion lead — 1,340 times the federal limits — and 137,000 copper — 105 times federal limits. However, follow-up testing showed levels much lower than previously detected.

Bryan issued a “No Drink Advisory” as a precautionary measure, and to access federal assistance, a State of Emergency was declared, allowing for comprehensive reevaluation. Subsequent sequential testing by the EPA, adhering to established protocols, revealed significantly lower levels of lead and copper, concluding that there was no system-wide lead and copper contamination of the public water system on St. Croix and instead identifying less than a handful of elevated readings due to localized plumbing fixtures within individual homes.

“We now know that the initial testing used incorrect methodology leading to erroneously high readings,” Bryan said in a release announcing the end of the advisory. “Subsequent testing, using proper methodologies that included sampling directly from household faucets, provided accurate and reassuring results.”

Post-EPA report, DPNR and WAPA conducted additional water sampling. These results corroborate the findings of EPA’s sequential testing and WAPA’s regular compliance testing, affirming no system-wide issue of lead and copper contamination in St. Croix’s public water system, according to Government House.

“While system-wide lead and copper contamination is ruled out, we recognize the issue of discolored water experienced by residents in certain areas in St. Croix. WAPA’s ongoing infrastructure projects, such as the completed Clifton Hill waterline rehabilitation on St. Croix and the initiatives in Estates Campo Rico and Hannah’s Rest, are part of our broader strategy to replace old metal pipes with more reliable PVC pipes,” Bryan said.

Through Prudent Replacement Public Assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, WAPA is slated to replace the entire water infrastructure on St. Croix and modernize it to industry standards, replacing an estimated 681 miles of ductile iron pipes — a project that WAPA CEO Andrew Smith has said could take up to 20 years. Additionally, in December 2021, Congressional Delegate Stacey Plaskett announced nearly $32 million in funding to replace lead pipes via President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

For more updates regarding the WAPA water situation, visit https://cleanwaterusvi.com. For information about lead and lead testing, call the Health Department hotline at 340-712-6499.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.