Oct. 12, 2002 With a mandate by the Federal Aviation Administration to close the Anguilla Landfill only three months away, Gov. Charles Turnbull on Friday sent a bill to the 24th Legislature that would help fund an interim solution to St. Croix's waste-management woes.
In an Oct. 7 letter to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Turnbull asked the Legislature to approve a $10 million appropriation from the General Fund to the Public Works Department, using the bulk of the money — $8.4 million — for start-up costs for a waste-transfer station.
The remaining $1.6 million would pay a federal Environmental Protection Agency fine for failure to comply with years-old mandates dealing with management of the landfill. EPA originally levied a $25 million fine against the VI government but settled for the lesser figure; however, the deadline to pay is by the end of October or the entire fine will be assessed.
The governor told Liburd that members of his administration would be available "to further explain the need for these important measures since no action was taken by the Legislature on my request for a technical amendment to the 2003 budget submission on this matter."
The executive branch has long pushed for the establishment of a semi-autonomous Waste Management Authority to deal with solid-waste and sewage issues throughout the territory. After the Senate's last regular session, Turnbull noted the "conspicuous absence" of the waste legislation at the top of another, Sept. 19, letter to Liburd outlining approved and vetoed bills.
The governor's proposed amendment would have tacked a less than 1 cent per pound surcharge on all goods imported to the territory, bringing in an estimated $20 million per year to fund solid-waste initiatives. The measure was sent to the Legislature on June 7, but senators have taken no action on it thus far.
Since 1993, the EPA ordered all dumps closed and replaced with sanitary landfills — a mandate Anguilla never fulfilled. Meanwhile, federal law dictates that no landfill shall be within 10,000 feet of an airport because of dangers to aircraft posed by foraging birds and dogs. The FAA's requirement that the Anguilla landfill be closed has been in effect since 1996.
In January, the V.I. government began looking for a company to deal with the island's daily 120 tons of trash until it formulates a long-term plan. This summer, the government selected Landfill Technologies Corp., a company that deals with waste collection, landfill operation and recycling in Puerto Rico.
The company will wrap, bale and store the trash in above-ground containers. But siting the facility at Anguilla hinges on FAA and EPA approval.
Turnbull's $8 million appropriation is still considerably less than earlier start-up cost estimates of $10 million to $15 million per year, with an additional $5 million per year in operating fees.
"The startup of the operations of an alternate temporary site for a waste-management system on the island of St. Croix is critical to the mitigation of health risks to the residents and the maintenance of an air portal for visitors," the bill reads.
The FAA has threatened sanctions against the Port Authority, which owns the property, if the landfill is not closed by the deadlines. VIPA's executive director, Gordon Finch, has said those fines could include stiff penalties, and at the very worst, decertification of the airport, which would essentially shut down operations there.
"I urge your expeditious consideration of this vital bill necessary to address the critical issues facing the waste management systems in the Virgin Islands," Turnbull said.
The Senate is not scheduled to meet next week.
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