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HomeNewsArchivesBROKEN PLEDGE TO FIX SEWAGE WOES ANGERS JUDGE

BROKEN PLEDGE TO FIX SEWAGE WOES ANGERS JUDGE

Oct. 15, 2001 — Sometimes what public officials don't say is more interesting than what they do say.
Case in point: two statements released Friday by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull concerning moves to repair the territory’s troubled sewer system. What wasn't mentioned: a recent federal court order issued by an exasperated judge.
Late Friday, Turnbull trumpeted two moves.
The first was a "state of emergency" proclamation that allows the Public Works Department to expedite purchases of supplies, materials, equipment and contractual services to repair the territory's wastewater system. Turnbull made the same proclamation in March 2000.
The second was the announcement of a proposed bill to appropriate $4.4 million from the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund to Public Works to fix the longstanding problems associated with the sewage system.
The seemingly out-of-the-blue actions by the Turnbull administration probably would not have happened if not for a terse order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Moore on Sept. 27. In that order, Moore chronicles the 17-year-old consent decree between the U.S. Department of Justice and the V.I. government that calls for Public Works to fix St. Croix’s leaking, antiquated and neglected sewage system. Past problems have "resulted in millions upon millions of gallons of raw sewage being pumped directly into the Caribbean Sea," according to Moore.
He then blasted the government for the "utter contempt" it has "persistently shown" for its obligations under the consent decree.
Because administration officials have "exhausted" his patience, Moore has ordered Turnbull, Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood and a host of others to court on Thursday to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for "continued and flagrant failure" to comply with the consent decree and the court’s orders.
What appears to have particularly angered Moore were promises made in court by Public Works and administration officials almost a year ago to fix the problems or face contempt-of-court charges then.
Another thing that rankled Moore was Turnbull’s 2002 budget that allocated $250,000 to fix the sewage system, which needs, according to one high-ranking government official, at least $20 million in repairs.
Since the hearing on Oct. 26, 2000, Public Works "continues brazenly to ignore this Court’s orders," Moore wrote, "and, as a result, it appears that the government of the Virgin Islands has allowed the various St. Croix facilities once again to fall into a state of dismal disrepair …"
Promises and pronouncements not kept
Last year, Moore threatened V.I. government officials with contempt-of-court charges because of the longstanding problems with the sewage system outlined in the consent decree, particularly on St. Croix. But in the hearing last October, local officials sought to assuage Moore’s ire with what the judge called "promises and pronouncements," which included submitting monthly status reports to the court.
But problems continue, Moore said in his recent order, including Public Works’ failure to "even be bothered to submit" the monthly reports.
Adding to Moore’s exasperation were Turnbull’s priorities on spending the government’s recent $100 million tax windfall. Moore said that one appropriations bill contained no money to repair the sewage system, while another earmarked a "mere $250,000 …"
That, Moore said, is an amount unlikely to bring the V.I. government into compliance with the consent decree and his previous orders.
"The constant refrain of the government of the Virgin Islands has been that it lacks the money to do what it agreed to do in the … consent decrees, or to comply with various aspects of this court’s recent orders," Moore wrote. "It thus appears that the government of the Virgin Islands has failed to comply with the terms of the amended consent decree and many aspects of the court’s orders … despite its promises, representations and the recent $100 million ‘windfall.’"
The "windfall" reference was to pronouncements by Turnbull and his finance officials last spring that a previously unanticipated infusion of $100 million in income tax revenues was expected to flow into government coffers for Fiscal Year 2001, which ended Sept. 30.
Meantime, Moore wrote, a recent breakdown at a wastewater treatment plant on St. Thomas, causing raw sewage to flow into the sea near the Cyril E. King Airport and forcing authorities to close a public beach, and the lack of personnel at St. John's new wastewater treatment plant "give fresh evidence that the government of the Virgin Islands has generally failed to comply with the amended consent decree."

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Oct. 15, 2001 -- Sometimes what public officials don't say is more interesting than what they do say.
Case in point: two statements released Friday by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull concerning moves to repair the territory’s troubled sewer system. What wasn't mentioned: a recent federal court order issued by an exasperated judge.
Late Friday, Turnbull trumpeted two moves.
The first was a "state of emergency" proclamation that allows the Public Works Department to expedite purchases of supplies, materials, equipment and contractual services to repair the territory's wastewater system. Turnbull made the same proclamation in March 2000.
The second was the announcement of a proposed bill to appropriate $4.4 million from the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund to Public Works to fix the longstanding problems associated with the sewage system.
The seemingly out-of-the-blue actions by the Turnbull administration probably would not have happened if not for a terse order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Moore on Sept. 27. In that order, Moore chronicles the 17-year-old consent decree between the U.S. Department of Justice and the V.I. government that calls for Public Works to fix St. Croix’s leaking, antiquated and neglected sewage system. Past problems have "resulted in millions upon millions of gallons of raw sewage being pumped directly into the Caribbean Sea," according to Moore.
He then blasted the government for the "utter contempt" it has "persistently shown" for its obligations under the consent decree.
Because administration officials have "exhausted" his patience, Moore has ordered Turnbull, Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood and a host of others to court on Thursday to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for "continued and flagrant failure" to comply with the consent decree and the court’s orders.
What appears to have particularly angered Moore were promises made in court by Public Works and administration officials almost a year ago to fix the problems or face contempt-of-court charges then.
Another thing that rankled Moore was Turnbull’s 2002 budget that allocated $250,000 to fix the sewage system, which needs, according to one high-ranking government official, at least $20 million in repairs.
Since the hearing on Oct. 26, 2000, Public Works "continues brazenly to ignore this Court’s orders," Moore wrote, "and, as a result, it appears that the government of the Virgin Islands has allowed the various St. Croix facilities once again to fall into a state of dismal disrepair ..."
Promises and pronouncements not kept
Last year, Moore threatened V.I. government officials with contempt-of-court charges because of the longstanding problems with the sewage system outlined in the consent decree, particularly on St. Croix. But in the hearing last October, local officials sought to assuage Moore’s ire with what the judge called "promises and pronouncements," which included submitting monthly status reports to the court.
But problems continue, Moore said in his recent order, including Public Works’ failure to "even be bothered to submit" the monthly reports.
Adding to Moore’s exasperation were Turnbull’s priorities on spending the government’s recent $100 million tax windfall. Moore said that one appropriations bill contained no money to repair the sewage system, while another earmarked a "mere $250,000 ..."
That, Moore said, is an amount unlikely to bring the V.I. government into compliance with the consent decree and his previous orders.
"The constant refrain of the government of the Virgin Islands has been that it lacks the money to do what it agreed to do in the ... consent decrees, or to comply with various aspects of this court’s recent orders," Moore wrote. "It thus appears that the government of the Virgin Islands has failed to comply with the terms of the amended consent decree and many aspects of the court’s orders ... despite its promises, representations and the recent $100 million ‘windfall.’"
The "windfall" reference was to pronouncements by Turnbull and his finance officials last spring that a previously unanticipated infusion of $100 million in income tax revenues was expected to flow into government coffers for Fiscal Year 2001, which ended Sept. 30.
Meantime, Moore wrote, a recent breakdown at a wastewater treatment plant on St. Thomas, causing raw sewage to flow into the sea near the Cyril E. King Airport and forcing authorities to close a public beach, and the lack of personnel at St. John's new wastewater treatment plant "give fresh evidence that the government of the Virgin Islands has generally failed to comply with the amended consent decree."