May 22, 2001 The Turnbull administration will send legislation to the Senate in July that will create a solid-waste authority, and with it plans for a long-awaited facility to handle the territorys trash.
According to a Government House statement, Gov. Charles Turnbull, his advisers and financial consultants met Tuesday to review the progress of plans to "address the Virgin Islands solid waste crisis," less than 20 months before a federal deadline to close the Anguilla Landfill on St. Croix.
Turnbull said he has directed his economic adviser, Kent Bernier, and Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood to consider "new technologies that process solid waste in such a way that the water quality, air quality, land use and the health of the people of the Virgin Islands (are) protected and enhanced."
To accomplish that, the V.I. government will likely spend some $175 million for a waste-to-energy gasification plant, the single most costly capital project ever undertaken in the territory. As a result residents can expect to pay up to $30 a month in garbage bills.
Last year the government hired Caribbean Waste Technologies to develop a draft proposal for solid waste disposal.
Because of the Federal Aviation Administrations concerns that birds attracted to the Anguilla Landfill adjacent to the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix are a threat to aircraft, the landfill has been ordered closed by December 2002. If that deadline isn't met, the FAA has threatened to decertify the airport or turn millions of dollars of airport-expansion grant money given to the V.I. Port Authority into loans.
"The landfills we have now are underfunded, and our health and environment are being compromised," Callwood said. "In addition, the FAA has pressing concerns about air safety due to the proximity of our landfill to the Henry Rohlsen Airport. There is no easy solution. This is everybodys problem and we have to solve it together."
But to close the old dump — and the out-of-compliance Bovoni Landfill on St. Thomas — a new waste facility must be constructed to dispose of the approximately 150,000 tons of garbage produced each year in the territory. Because of potential air-pollution problems, a lack of available land and the lack of federally approved solid waste rules and regulations, Public Works officials have said incineration and burying the trash arent options. That leaves gasification, a process used in Europe and in some U.S. jurisdictions.
While both gasification and incineration use heat to destroy garbage, incineration burns organic material in solid waste by introducing air during the process, producing high-temperature gases that must be cooled and cleaned before being released through a smokestack. The byproduct of the process — ash, which consists of metals and silica — must be disposed of in a landfill.
Gasification operates at temperatures almost twice as high as incineration. This destroys all organic compounds. The high temperatures are also above the melting point of metal and mineral products found in solid waste. The metal byproduct is processed into pellets that can be used in a smelter.
It is still unclear whether a single plant will be built on St. Croix and garbage from St. Thomas and St. John barged there, or if gasification plants will be built on both islands.
Whatever the plan, Callwood said Caribbean Waste Technologies' proposal wont be a solution by itself. Thats where the waste-management authority comes into play. This would be a semi-autonomous agency charged with operating the governments solid and wastewater systems. It would be funded by several fees, including a tipping fee at the territorys dumps, which are currently free.
"Before we can even entertain a new technology, a waste-management authority must be created to oversee implementation of a multi-phase solution that includes recycling, reuse and reduction of waste," Callwood said. "Creation of an authority will also focus administration efforts to improve trash-disposal services to the people and businesses of the Virgin Islands. We look forward to close coordination between the administration and the Legislature to move forward on solutions, which are drafted and will be sent to the Legislature by July."
Last week Bernier said the proposed plant will cost $160 million to $175 million. He also said residents would likely see garbage bills ranging from $16 to $30 a month for waste disposal to help pay for the project.
"It is clear that any solution will mean that the people will have to start paying for solid waste disposal," Callwood said. "How much we are going to pay, what type of system we choose to handle our trash, and where we build it will have to be decided by the community in a collective manner. But we have to face reality. Whatever the answer, we will have to take responsibility for the financial burden."