Oct. 22, 2002 – The sludge removal job at what is called the Airport Lagoon sewage treatment facility should wrap up within the next two or three weeks, according to Jim Casey of the federal Environmental Protection Agency office on St. Thomas.
He said the Public Works Department had to remove the sludge because the lagoon, located southwest of Cyril E. King Airport, was about 90 percent filled up with sewage. Failure to do so would have caused the system to stop operating.
The sludge is being recycled — for use as ground cover at the Bovoni landfill.
Casey said preliminary work began in April and the actual sludge removal started in July. He had expected the job to be done by now but said that Public Works encountered some "unanticipated technical problems." Such things are to be expected, he said, adding that it also "took a while" to get the Public Works contracts for the work in place.
Meanwhile, the sewage normally carried into the lagoon is being dumped directly into the ocean. Casey said it is being disinfected to minimize the amount of pathogens but is not being treated to the point where it would meet EPA standards for treated sewage. "This was a compromise," he said.
The Planning and Natural Resources Department issued Public Works a permit for the project, but EPA is keeping an eye on the work, Casey said, and if he saw a problem, the department would take action.
Hollis Griffin, director of DPNR's Environmental Enforcement Division, said at a Senate Planning and Environmental Protection Committee hearing several weeks ago that a permit for removing the sludge expired in late July. He was off island on Tuesday and could not be reached for further information.
Several telephone calls made to Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood were not returned. Planning and Natural Resources information officer Annette Morales is on vacation for several weeks; all questions to DPNR personnel must go through her office, and a secretary said she has no replacement while she is on leave.
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