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BREWERS BEACH CLOSED WHILE WATER'S TESTED

Sept. 4, 2001 – The beach at Brewers Bay will remain closed while Planning and Natural Resources Department officials await test results from water samples taken Tuesday to determine whether sewage discharged from a nearby treatment plant has contaminated water in the bay.
Preliminary test results on water collected from 10 sites in Brewers Bay should be available Wednesday, according to Hollis Griffin, director of DPNR's Environmental Protection Division. The beach will remain closed at least until the preliminary results are in, and possibly longer if the results show the water has been contaminated, he said.
Meantime, officials of both Planning and Natural Resources and the Public Works Department were working to come up with a plan to address the problem at the sewage treatment plant by Cyril E. King Airport that caused the sewage discharge.
DPNR issued an alert late Friday advising the public not to swim or fish at Brewers Bay because of possible water contamination. On Tuesday, officials said the discharge was due to damage to a partition to contain sewage sludge at the treatment plant. They said the partition was damaged when Tropical Storm Dean brought heavy winds and rain to St. Thomas on Aug. 22.
After partial treatment, sewage is contained in a lagoon, where heavier solids sink to the bottom. The cleaner water at the surface is carried through an outflow pipe to be discharged about 1,000 feet out at sea. When the partition was damaged, it may have allowed some of the heavier solids to be discharged as well, Griffin said.
Also Tuesday, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg said it had been brought to his attention that "there were no operators present" at the treatment plant at the time of the discharge "and that several other plants are often not properly staffed." He made the comments in a letter to Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole in which he further stated, "It is also my understanding that operators were brought from Puerto Rico to assist" with the sewage discharge crisis.
Cole chairs the Legislature's Planning and Environmental Protection Committee. In the letter, which Donastorg released to the news media, Donastorg repeated an earlier call for Cole to convene an emergency meeting of the panel "to investigate" the sewage discharge at the lagoon plant.
"My worst fears were realized when I received the news that the screen broke away and that raw sewage had spilled into Lindbergh and Brewers Bays," Donastorg wrote. He added, "we need to have the experts along with administration officials come before the committee and answer many pertinent questions."
Donastorg, a member of the committee, was its chair in the 23rd Legislature. The committee "has clear jurisdiction and oversight authority in this matter," he told Cole.
Planning and Natural Resource officials were working Tuesday to complete an "order of corrective action" outlining what Public Works personnel need to do to fix the sewage treatment plant problem.
After an inspection Tuesday, Griffin said he hoped the necessary repairs could be made within a week. The plant will remain in operation, he said, and the possible contamination could continue. Officials said Tuesday they did not know how much of the sludge had been discharged.
The plant treats all sewage from the downtown Charlotte Amalie area east to Havensight, about 2.5 million gallons of wastewater on an average day.

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