V.I. Waste Management Authority board members approved expenditures, chastised staff about procedures and discussed how to address a $844,000 fine from the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources for violations on St. Croix and St. Thomas.
Discussion of the fine came almost as an afterthought as Thursday’s almost five-hour meeting was drawing to a close. Interim Executive Director Adrian Taylor prompted staff members to report about recent non-compliance fines levied by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. The St. Thomas wastewater treatment plant will be liable for $520,000 and the St. Croix pump station was fined $324,000. Staff members said there had been no warning the fines were coming, but said Planning and Natural Resources knew Waste Management was aware of the violations.
“That’s why we were fined,” said board chairman Keith Richards.
The board approved funding for new trucks on all three islands, pumps, generators and wastewater hauling with EPA funding from 2012 and 2013. The grant expires in September, but staff plans to apply for an extension in case it is necessary. Waste Management will pay for the work and hope for reimbursement by the federal government agency.
The board approved more than $3 million to repair sewer lines and replace manholes located in guts on St. Thomas and St. Croix – funds to be replaced by FEMA, according to Ann Hanley, acting chief operations officer. The projects were awarded to the same company and Richards asked if the contractor performing the projects has the capacity to complete both jobs in a timely manner. The board members learned that bids are awarded before a timeline for the completion of work has been established, so they won’t know for a while. Not until the contract is drawn up does the winning bidder disclose the timeline, according to the procurement director.
Board member Norbert Rosado asked if it was good practice to lay sewer lines in guts since the low-lying drainages often become flooded. He and others said they were not comfortable approving the large construction projects without a schedule.
There was a discussion about illegal tie-ins to sewer lines and the board agreed an audit of lines connecting to sewer systems without authorization should be completed within two months and fines levied on perpetrators.
Two other projects to repair pumps and sewer lines were held to re-advertise for additional bidders and deal with a surveyor error.
“Single source bids is something we have to stay away from,” Richards said. “We need to be more proactive to get it done as quickly as possible.”
During the director’s report, Taylor updated the group on the three recent fires at the Anguilla Landfill, using an aerial map of the location to demonstrate the distances between the fires and why causes of the blazes are “suspicious.” The V.I. Fire Service and the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency are investigating the fires along with the Royal Dane fire on St. Thomas and fires at two Gallows Bay businesses on St. Croix.
To begin restoring the landfill, Taylor said the V.I. Water and Power Authority will install new poles and lights to bypass the transfer station which was heavily damaged in the first fire on June 15 and extinguished June 25. The second fire, reported June 30, destroyed three large pieces of machinery, owned by contractor A-9, which were not parked adjacent to each other so the fire did not spread but must have been individually set, according to Taylor and the Fire Service. The heavy equipment was covered by insurance. The third fire consisted of oil drums that were torched on July 6.
Bids are being accepted to install a security system and infrared cameras around the landfill. Most of the damage will be covered by insurance, according to Taylor, and the authority will be liable only for the foam used to put out the fires.
Metal and tires will not be accepted for disposal until further notice, Taylor said, and the guard duty around the clock has been increased four times the normal number.
The EPA has been on-island sampling water and the air continuously. Taylor added that no one has showed up at the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital complaining of respiratory problems.
Taylor and his staff alerted the EPA, Planning and Natural Resources and the Federal Aviation Agency after the fires and hope to gain time to normalize operations before consent decrees must be fulfilled. The federal agencies have charged Waste Management with relocating the landfills on St. Thomas and St. Croix within two years because of their proximity to the airports.
Andrea Daley, the chief financial officer, reported Waste Management will request $31 million from the V.I. government in a budget hearing before the Legislature on July 30. She said there will be 159 positions to fund in 2020 and currently there are 137 employees.