Scrap metal, above, is piling up at the Susannaberg Transfer Station while household trash, below, is spilling over the hillside.
Something stinks, according to neighbors in the Estate Susannaberg area.
Residents who live near the Susannaberg Transfer Station have been complaining lately about the area overflowing with household garbage, scrap metal and old cars with pigs and goats often strewing trash along the roadway and hillsides in the area.
The station was designed to be a place to store waste until it is shipped to the Bovoni Landfill on St. Thomas. While nothing should be accumulating at the transfer station, it seems waste has been piling up lately.
The station is run by the V.I. Department of Public Works in cooperation with the V.I. Waste Management Authority (WMA) with regulatory oversight from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Environmental Protection.
DPNR’s EP Enforcement officers last visited the Susannaberg Transfer Station in March and directed employees to secure access to the site to keep animals out, explained DPNR EP Program Manager Leslie Leonard.
“We were out there in March of this year because we got a complaint about someone burying cars,” said Leonard. “After we inspected the area we didn’t get any response from WMA and we didn’t see any evidence of the cars buried. But we did see animals in there and we directed them to control the access.”
“The gates were just open and pigs and goats were coming in,” Leonard said. “We gave them a directive to control access to keep the animals out.”
EP officials were not pleased with the state of the facility, Leonard added.
“When we were there the equipment was idle and there were only two staff who could operate a backhoe,” said Leonard. “When they saw us they started to do work in an effort to clean up the area.”
Leonard followed up the site visit with a discussion with WMA officials, she explained.
“I was able to contact Waste Management and they said they had not been able to get to Susannaberg but were going to try to get some shipments to St. Thomas,” Leonard said. “All that waste needs to be moved to Bovoni and they were treating the area like a landfill. Nothing was being taken care of on St. John.”
EP officials were planning to tour the Susannaberg Transfer Station this week for a follow up visit, according to DPNR’s spokesperson Jamal Nielsen.
The area is not in compliance because it is not functioning as a transfer station, according to the director of DPNR’s EP Division.
“In general, it’s a transfer station and nothing should stay there for an extended period of time,” said DPNR’s EP Director David Simon.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which serves as a secondary oversight agency for the transfer station, is also aware of the accumulating problems in Estate Susannaberg, according to EPA’s Virgin Islands Coordinator Jim Casey.
“The concern has come to the agency’s attention and we have met with WMA in recent days,” said Casey. “Last week personnel from EPA was at Susannaberg Transfer Station and conducted an inspection and met with WMA personnel to discuss issues relative to the facility.”
EPA has been working with WMA officials for years in an effort to bring all of the territory’s waste facilities into compliance and Susannaberg is one part of that overall goal, explained Casey.
“Susannaberg is being included and the focus is to bring all of the territorial waste facilities into compliance,” he said. “The nature of a transfer station is for the temporary staging area and for processing to be transferred to a more permanent location, in this case Bovoni Landfill.”
A combination of broken equipment and a contractor not being on island has led to the overflowing conditions at Susannaberg, according to Casey.
“They have experienced some difficulties with the compacting system at Susannaberg,” Casey said. “For the garbage itself they have a compactor which is not operational right now and they’ve had an accumulation of scrap metal which needs to be removed from the station.”
“Based on discussions with WMA, they don’t have the appropriate equipment to do the work and the contractor has not been on sight in recent months to actually deal with processing the metal in a timely manner,” he said.
EPA officials continue to discuss the situation with WMA and additional action might be needed, Casey explained.
“The discussions are ongoing and the agency is considering what further cause of action to take,” he said.
EPA’s goal is to improve the state of waste facilities across the territory and to have Susannaberg Transfer Station actually operate as a transfer station, Casey added.
“EPA is in the process of negotiating a consent decree with issues dealing with the Anguilla Landfill and Bovoni Landfill and we’re talking with them in reference to seeing how soon the Susannaberg Transfer Station can come into compliance,” said Casey. “It’s not a landfill, it’s a transfer station. It would have to operate in an appropriate manner as a transfer station and it is not operating in an appropriate manner as a transfer station.”