April 15, 2004 – The foul odor continues intermittently at the construction site of the Enighed Pond commercial port project, and residents may just have to endure it until dredging wraps up in several months.
On Tuesday, Port Authority personnel began injecting chemicals that are supposed to "neutralize" the smell into the material going through the dredging pump.
"It has been helping, but it doesn't eliminate it 100 percent," VIPA's executive director, Darlan Brin, said of the stench on Thursday.
Meanwhile, he said, the Port Authority is continuing to pump a deodorizing substance into the air at the point of discharge. This was the procedure VIPA tried initially to deal with the smell, with minimal success.
Brin said the Port Authority spent "several thousand dollars" on the chemicals and is in the midst of buying more deodorizing devices in the hope of totally eliminating the odor.
The odor first became noticeable in late February as the contractor for the project, American Bridge Co., began dredging the Enighed Pond bottom to create landfill for the commercial port.
Brin said that salt ponds give off a similar odor when stirred up. However, he also noted that the Public Works Department for years pumped effluent from its often-malfunctioning sewage treatment plant into Enighed Pond until a new sewage treatment plant opened several years ago. The earlier discharge practices may have compounded the odor problem, he said.
The pond, which began its life as a salt pond, many years ago had its mouth to the sea opened slightly.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley said on Thursday that he is concerned that whatever is causing the odor might have a long-term effect on people's health. "I'm trying to find out what's in the air," he said.
Brin said that when the Port Authority did preliminary work on the project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required testing for toxins. "They didn't find anything toxic," he said.
The dredged material will remain at the site, Brin said, but VIPA plans to cap it with soil in an effort to minimize future odor problems. Additionally, the Port Authority is looking for a way to dry up the water in the dredged material faster than normal in the hope of reducing the smell.
Brin said dredging operations are expected to take several more months. The contractor has been forced to stop intermittently to give residents a break from the odor.
At times, the smell has prompted the closing of nearby Julius E. Sprauve School.
Brin expects the commercial port to begin operations in August. All commercial marine traffic, including barges, will then use Enighed Pond, and the congestion at the Creek will come to a halt.
Next to come are improvements to be made at the Red Hook marine terminal on St. Thomas, he said. Once the Port Authority starts construction at that location in three months, the current chaos caused by vehicles waiting to board barges will probably increase.
To free up space at Red Hook, Brin said, the Port Authority will probably require containers and heavy equipment destined for St. John to travel by barge from Crown Bay. But he said concrete-mixer trucks would be exempt because it would take so much longer for them to reach St. John if they had to be barged from Crown Bay.
Meanwhile, at least two senators are calling for a legislative inquiry into the Enighed Pond odor problem. Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd and Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone asked Sen. Louis Hill, who chairs the Planning and Environmental Protection Committee, to put the matter on the agenda for the next committee meeting.
Basil Ottley, a member of Hill's staff, said the hearing is set for 6 p.m. April 23 at the Legislature Building in Cruz Bay. He said the Enighed Pond Commercial Port, the Red Hook marine terminal and revitalization of the Charlotte Amalie harbor are on the agenda.
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