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HomeNewsArchivesTURNBULL VOWS TO 'MICROMANAGE' SEWAGE SYSTEM

TURNBULL VOWS TO 'MICROMANAGE' SEWAGE SYSTEM

Oct. 18, 2001 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull went to court Thursday to apologize to U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Moore and to take full responsibility for delays in repairing the decrepit sewage treatment facilities on St. Croix.
Turnbull said that his officials had failed to keep him apprised of the situation — in which the sewage treatment facilities still fail to comply with federal environmental standards. But he said that in the end, he is the one who must bear responsibility for the failures.
"I'm going to do all I can. I'm going to have to do some micromanaging," Turnbull told the judge as he pledged to bring the sewage facilities up to standards. "I told my people, 'The judge is right.' When you're wrong, you have to admit you're wrong."
Turnbull's testimony came during a contempt-of-court hearing in which top government officials were called to tell the judge what progress they were making to upgrade wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations in the territory. Moore scheduled the hearing after the V.I. government failed to show progress in bringing the facilities into compliance with federal Environmental Protection Agency standards, which the government is under court order to do.
During the five-hour hearing, Moore noted that the Anguilla wastewater treatment plant on St. Croix is in no better shape now than it was a year ago — and in some ways is worse. But at the end of the hearing, after government officials pointed to several areas of progress in making the needed repairs, the judge said he needed to think about whether to hold top officials in contempt for not abiding by past court orders regarding the sewage plants.
"I'm not interested in retribution. I'm interested in getting the thing working," Moore said.
He heard testimony from Wayne Callwood, Public Works commissioner; Ira Mills, Office of Management and Budget director; Attorney General Iver Stridiron; Jeff Hines, engineer of the Azurix company, which has been contracted to evaluate and make repairs at the Anguilla treatment plant; and Sonya Nelthropp, technical adviser to Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett and the person assigned to oversee the sewage treatment plants.
In pointing to areas in which they have made progress, officials noted that Turnbull had allocated $4.4 million for sewage system repairs from the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund. That outlay still must be approved by the Legislature.
Public Works, meanwhile, has entered into a $1.1 million contract with Azurix, a company that Callwood said has the professional experience with sewage treatment plants that has been lacking in the territory in the past.
Hines testified that the Anguilla plant has a functional design but has been so poorly maintained that it has fallen into a state of disrepair. He said a preliminary study led him to believe that he could get the plant functioning at a reasonable level within 45 days. After that, it would be a matter of making repairs and doing maintenance section by section, he said.
Along with the expected influx of money and the hiring of a professional engineering firm to make repairs, Callwood said he had recently assigned Nelthropp, who has years of wastewater treatment experience in the Boston area, to be directly responsible for the system.
But attorneys for the EPA and the U.S. Attorney's Office noted that promises have been made and broken repeatedly in the past. They brought out testimony that the chief engineer for Public Works, who had been responsible for the Anguilla plant, resigned in March and that Public Works has yet to advertise for a replacement for him.
Callwood testified that it would cost about $30 million to overhaul the sewage treatment facilities on St. Croix completely. But under questioning from the federal attorneys, he acknowledged that there are no concrete plans to find the funding to do so.
In closing statements, EPA attorney Donald Frankel said he believed the allocation of $4.4 million was a major step forward, but he noted that it came about only after Moore had scheduled the contempt-of-court hearing.
"We believe there have been significant violations," Frankel said. "Frankly, the St. Croix treatment plant is in no better shape today than it was a year ago. In some ways, it's worse."
At the end of the hearing, Moore ordered the EPA to outline specific things that needed to be fixed and to set a series of deadlines and other ways to gauge the V.I. government's progress. Local government officials then will have two weeks to respond and make their own recommendations.
The judge ordered regular meetings between the two sides and quarterly status conferences to help him determine whether adequate progress is being made.

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Oct. 18, 2001 - Gov. Charles W. Turnbull went to court Thursday to apologize to U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Moore and to take full responsibility for delays in repairing the decrepit sewage treatment facilities on St. Croix.
Turnbull said that his officials had failed to keep him apprised of the situation -- in which the sewage treatment facilities still fail to comply with federal environmental standards. But he said that in the end, he is the one who must bear responsibility for the failures.
"I'm going to do all I can. I'm going to have to do some micromanaging," Turnbull told the judge as he pledged to bring the sewage facilities up to standards. "I told my people, 'The judge is right.' When you're wrong, you have to admit you're wrong."
Turnbull's testimony came during a contempt-of-court hearing in which top government officials were called to tell the judge what progress they were making to upgrade wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations in the territory. Moore scheduled the hearing after the V.I. government failed to show progress in bringing the facilities into compliance with federal Environmental Protection Agency standards, which the government is under court order to do.
During the five-hour hearing, Moore noted that the Anguilla wastewater treatment plant on St. Croix is in no better shape now than it was a year ago -- and in some ways is worse. But at the end of the hearing, after government officials pointed to several areas of progress in making the needed repairs, the judge said he needed to think about whether to hold top officials in contempt for not abiding by past court orders regarding the sewage plants.
"I'm not interested in retribution. I'm interested in getting the thing working," Moore said.
He heard testimony from Wayne Callwood, Public Works commissioner; Ira Mills, Office of Management and Budget director; Attorney General Iver Stridiron; Jeff Hines, engineer of the Azurix company, which has been contracted to evaluate and make repairs at the Anguilla treatment plant; and Sonya Nelthropp, technical adviser to Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett and the person assigned to oversee the sewage treatment plants.
In pointing to areas in which they have made progress, officials noted that Turnbull had allocated $4.4 million for sewage system repairs from the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund. That outlay still must be approved by the Legislature.
Public Works, meanwhile, has entered into a $1.1 million contract with Azurix, a company that Callwood said has the professional experience with sewage treatment plants that has been lacking in the territory in the past.
Hines testified that the Anguilla plant has a functional design but has been so poorly maintained that it has fallen into a state of disrepair. He said a preliminary study led him to believe that he could get the plant functioning at a reasonable level within 45 days. After that, it would be a matter of making repairs and doing maintenance section by section, he said.
Along with the expected influx of money and the hiring of a professional engineering firm to make repairs, Callwood said he had recently assigned Nelthropp, who has years of wastewater treatment experience in the Boston area, to be directly responsible for the system.
But attorneys for the EPA and the U.S. Attorney's Office noted that promises have been made and broken repeatedly in the past. They brought out testimony that the chief engineer for Public Works, who had been responsible for the Anguilla plant, resigned in March and that Public Works has yet to advertise for a replacement for him.
Callwood testified that it would cost about $30 million to overhaul the sewage treatment facilities on St. Croix completely. But under questioning from the federal attorneys, he acknowledged that there are no concrete plans to find the funding to do so.
In closing statements, EPA attorney Donald Frankel said he believed the allocation of $4.4 million was a major step forward, but he noted that it came about only after Moore had scheduled the contempt-of-court hearing.
"We believe there have been significant violations," Frankel said. "Frankly, the St. Croix treatment plant is in no better shape today than it was a year ago. In some ways, it's worse."
At the end of the hearing, Moore ordered the EPA to outline specific things that needed to be fixed and to set a series of deadlines and other ways to gauge the V.I. government's progress. Local government officials then will have two weeks to respond and make their own recommendations.
The judge ordered regular meetings between the two sides and quarterly status conferences to help him determine whether adequate progress is being made.