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BOVONI HOMEOWNERS AIR LANDFILL CONCERNS

Feb. 19, 2004 – The Bovoni Texaco station does not usually attract a crowd of government officials. But on Thursday, personnel from the Public Works Department, Anti-Litter and Beautification Commission, and other agencies huddled in a circle to hear the concerns of Bovoni residents about the landfill across the street. And in the middle of the crowd was Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
"Members of the Bovoni Homeowners Association met with me earlier this year in my office and requested I come out here and look at the area and the landfill," Christensen told the group. "They are asking for the federal government to conduct another health assessment to see if the landfill is affecting them."
She said she plans to "contact officials at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to see what they need to justify doing a health assessment." But she said she knows "it's very difficult to get one done, because you have to meet a very high standard."
The concerned Bovoni residents not only believe they meet that standard; they are convinced that toxic substances from the landfill are affecting their health, through groundwater wells and through airborne particles.
A study conducted by the ATSDR in the mid-1990s found a high level of phosgene and mercury vapor in the air following the break-out of an underground fire at the landfill. Both substances are known to cause health problems in humans. According to one study, chronic inhalation of mercury vapor can cause fatigue, loss of memory, drowsiness and insomnia, "and progress to muscular tremors."
One resident says he has experienced muscular tremors. Jerard David, 47, said he started having muscle seizures about 15 years ago and continues to take medication to bring them under control. He said on Thursday of his condition: "The doctors asked the same question I did: Why? They said they could find no reason for its cause."
That's one reason Bovoni residents want to have blood tests done and to have the federal government pay for them.
"The landfill is funded mostly by federal dollars," and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "is not pushing very hard" for any health testing, Rosita Howard, secretary of the Bovoni Homeowners Association, said. "There's been no health education done by the EPA, even though we've asked for more than a year."
The Bovoni landfill occupies about 34 acres and lies adjacent to the Mangrove Lagoon, a federally protected marine sanctuary. It also lies within a mile of the homes of more than 4,000 Bovoni residents.
Technically it's a dump, not a landfill, since it's a repository of not just residential and commercial waste but junked cars, appliances, tires, medical waste, pesticides, paints, petroleum products and other unknown chemical substances. Some homeowners report having seen the dumping there of debris from the razed Donoe housing project which contained asbestos.
Jimez Ashby of A9 Trucking, newly contracted to manage the landfill, told the residents on Thursday that some of their concerns are problems that arise from the operation of all landfills.
"The leaching, the methane gas and the underground fires — they are produced in every landfill," Ashby said. He also said that Public Works has hired a contractor to compact the junked cars, many of them lying in plain view from the road, next to Lew Henley's Sewage Disposal and a "Do-It-Yourself Motor Oil Collection Center" which sits unused.
The homeowners say that A9 Trucking is doing a better job of managing the landfill than its predecessors, especially in terms of compacting trash and keeping the fly population down. But they want the junk cars and tires removed and would like to see more planting of trees as a buffer between the landfill and the residents' homes.
The concerns extend beyond the immediate Bovoni residential community, too. Pam Balash, a Bolongo resident for nearly 25 years, recalled on Thursday having to abandon her house when the underground fires got out of control a few years ago.
"We're downwind from it — those fumes and fires, and we get the debris and dust from the landfill," she said. "We also have severe allergies and are affected." Gesturing toward the landfill, she added: "Just look at this mound of junk here. Pretty soon, this is going to be the tallest mountain in the Virgin Islands."

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Feb. 19, 2004 - The Bovoni Texaco station does not usually attract a crowd of government officials. But on Thursday, personnel from the Public Works Department, Anti-Litter and Beautification Commission, and other agencies huddled in a circle to hear the concerns of Bovoni residents about the landfill across the street. And in the middle of the crowd was Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
"Members of the Bovoni Homeowners Association met with me earlier this year in my office and requested I come out here and look at the area and the landfill," Christensen told the group. "They are asking for the federal government to conduct another health assessment to see if the landfill is affecting them."
She said she plans to "contact officials at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to see what they need to justify doing a health assessment." But she said she knows "it's very difficult to get one done, because you have to meet a very high standard."
The concerned Bovoni residents not only believe they meet that standard; they are convinced that toxic substances from the landfill are affecting their health, through groundwater wells and through airborne particles.
A study conducted by the ATSDR in the mid-1990s found a high level of phosgene and mercury vapor in the air following the break-out of an underground fire at the landfill. Both substances are known to cause health problems in humans. According to one study, chronic inhalation of mercury vapor can cause fatigue, loss of memory, drowsiness and insomnia, "and progress to muscular tremors."
One resident says he has experienced muscular tremors. Jerard David, 47, said he started having muscle seizures about 15 years ago and continues to take medication to bring them under control. He said on Thursday of his condition: "The doctors asked the same question I did: Why? They said they could find no reason for its cause."
That's one reason Bovoni residents want to have blood tests done and to have the federal government pay for them.
"The landfill is funded mostly by federal dollars," and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "is not pushing very hard" for any health testing, Rosita Howard, secretary of the Bovoni Homeowners Association, said. "There's been no health education done by the EPA, even though we've asked for more than a year."
The Bovoni landfill occupies about 34 acres and lies adjacent to the Mangrove Lagoon, a federally protected marine sanctuary. It also lies within a mile of the homes of more than 4,000 Bovoni residents.
Technically it's a dump, not a landfill, since it's a repository of not just residential and commercial waste but junked cars, appliances, tires, medical waste, pesticides, paints, petroleum products and other unknown chemical substances. Some homeowners report having seen the dumping there of debris from the razed Donoe housing project which contained asbestos.
Jimez Ashby of A9 Trucking, newly contracted to manage the landfill, told the residents on Thursday that some of their concerns are problems that arise from the operation of all landfills.
"The leaching, the methane gas and the underground fires -- they are produced in every landfill," Ashby said. He also said that Public Works has hired a contractor to compact the junked cars, many of them lying in plain view from the road, next to Lew Henley's Sewage Disposal and a "Do-It-Yourself Motor Oil Collection Center" which sits unused.
The homeowners say that A9 Trucking is doing a better job of managing the landfill than its predecessors, especially in terms of compacting trash and keeping the fly population down. But they want the junk cars and tires removed and would like to see more planting of trees as a buffer between the landfill and the residents' homes.
The concerns extend beyond the immediate Bovoni residential community, too. Pam Balash, a Bolongo resident for nearly 25 years, recalled on Thursday having to abandon her house when the underground fires got out of control a few years ago.
"We're downwind from it -- those fumes and fires, and we get the debris and dust from the landfill," she said. "We also have severe allergies and are affected." Gesturing toward the landfill, she added: "Just look at this mound of junk here. Pretty soon, this is going to be the tallest mountain in the Virgin Islands."

Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.

Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.