V.I. trash crisis: Unpaid haulers may stop work in a week

Truck hauls trash at St. Croix's Anguilla landfill recently (Susan Ellis photo)
Truck hauls trash at St. Croix’s Anguilla landfill recently (Susan Ellis photo)

Trash haulers and companies operating the territory’s two landfills may stop hauling trash and stop maintaining the landfills by June 8 if the Waste Management Authority does not pony up some of the millions of dollars in past-due payments. But the Waste Management Authority does not have the money.

“We had a meeting Friday and they said they don’t have any money. But we can’t continue to work without getting paid,” James Bates, owner of Bates Trucking on St. Croix, said Saturday.

“Come June 8, we ain’t hauling anything. All the haulers on St. Croix and St. Thomas and at the landfill too,” he said. Private haulers will not be able to take trash to the landfills either because the landfills will not be operating, he said.

Bates Trucking on St. Croix, A9 Trucking and Sleepy’s Trucking on St. Thomas are among the affected companies.

A9 Trucking working on one of the two V.I. landfills
A9 Trucking working on one of the two V.I. landfills (Photo from A9 Trucking)

Even private garbage going to the dump won’t be able to go because the landfill will be closed, he said. The two haulers have announced service will stop June 1.

“The Authority advised the haulers of its current financial position and inability to make full payment on accounts receivables. The Authority at the request of the haulers will meeting again next week to provide an update,” Waste Management Authority Public Information Officer Melody Rames said in an email Saturday.

Waste Management “will have a contingency plan in place. We cannot allow a public health crisis to occur unabated,” she added.

The V.I. government has had periodic problems paying waste haulers since before the creation of the Waste Management Authority in 2003.

Those sorts of issues played a role in the decision to move responsibility for trash and sewage out of the Public Works Department and into a separate agency.

Bates would not say how much he personally was owed, but said he understood WMA had around $26 million in outstanding payments to all of its vendors.

In July of 2019, the Waste Management Authority owed trash haulers upwards of $6 million and had overall debt of $24 million.

It projected a $44 million budget shortfall that year.

While the Waste Management Authority has been given the power to collect tipping fees for using the territory’s dumps, those fees would be imposed on the same trucking companies the authority owes money to.

Meanwhile, the territory has been teetering on the edge of financial crisis for a decade. Conditions improved after the 2017 hurricanes, in part due to an influx of federal funding and insurance-financed rebuilding. But the pandemic has sharply cut government revenues, bringing the difficulties back to the fore.