July 28, 2005 – Neighbors say the mosquito-infested tires found in the yard of an abandoned home in the Williams Delight community have not been removed, just moved inside the empty home.
Virgin Islands Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control officials found more than 50 illegally dumped tires during an entomology training and surveillance check Tuesday in the Williams Delight community. Mosquitoes, which can carry the dengue fever that has been infecting people in the area, were breeding in the tires. According to a press release issued by Darlene Carty, Department of Health commissioner, the DOH officers notified the V.I. Housing Authority, which is the responsible agency for the community, and gave them two hours to "dispose of the tires."
The release quoted environmental health officer Stevie Webster, who said, "The site was cleaned by 1 p.m." (See St. Croix Source story "Dengue Mosquitoes Breeding in Dumped Tires")
That does not seem to be the opinion of the family who lives next door to where the mosquito-infested tires were found.
"They put the tires inside the house," said 28-year old Josephine Becerrial.
The Becerrial family lives at #280 Williams Delight right next door to #281, the abandoned home where the tires were found. Josephine lives in the home with her father and mother; her brothers, 26-year-old Jesus and 14-year-old Juan; and her sister, 15-year-old Josslyn. The family has lived in the home for more than 20 years.
Josephine said she was home when health officials came to the area Tuesday. "They didn't talk to us," Josephine said. "A bulldozer came and moved all the garbage into that pile."
Josephine is referring to an almost 6-foot-high pile of garbage, discarded wood and assorted debris heaped at the back of the yard. "The house has been abandoned for almost five years," she said. "People just come and throw their tires and other junk there."
The neglected house is surrounded by high grass. Several of the metal louvered windows are still intact, but at least two are completely removed, leaving gaping holes in the structure. The back door, warped and separating from water damage, hangs from one hinge.
Josephine said both her younger siblings recently contracted dengue. "I was in the hospital for five days," Josslyn said. Juan, standing nearby, nodded.
Mrs. Becerrial said she is sure the authorities will complete the clean-up. "If they came and cleaned it up, they will go with it [the trash and tires]."
Josephine is not too sure. "It's still dangerous. The house has holes in the roof and water can get in and go into the tires."
On the other side of #281, 68-year-old Martin Innocent is trimming the shrubs in his yard. Innocent has lived in #282 Williams Delight for four years. "I moved here from Paradise [housing community]," he said.
Innocent lives in the 2-bedroom home with his wife and takes care of his three grandchildren, ages 6, 2 and 18 months, when his daughter is at work. "I put mosquito netting over them when they are sleeping," Innocent said. "They don't come outside too much."
Innocent said he is not too concerned with dengue fever; he doesn't believe that it is incurable. "Trust in the Lord, and you can be cured," he said. Innocent said he knew Kamarah Isaac, the 14-year-old female resident of Williams Delight who died June 18 from complications of dengue shock syndrome. "I used to see her walking to school," he said.
Across the street, another neighbor, Peggy Maranda, sits on the tiny porch knitting a shirt for her 5-year-old son, Niam. The knitting needles move quickly as she talks. "They put the tires inside the house," Maranda said. "I live here and I am always home, and no big truck has come here to carry anything away."
Maranda said her children complain of mosquitoes in the house. Naomi, 10, said there are "a lot of mosquitoes" in her bedroom. She says she uses mosquito spray inside the house every day. Maranda said her home is also infested with termites.
"They don't do nothing for people in here," Maranda said, referring to the V.I. Housing Authority. Neither of the children has contracted dengue fever.
"They need to do something about this," Maranda said. "If my children get bitten, I'm carrying them to court."
Calls to the V.I. Housing Authority today were met with a recorded message outlining their hours of operation.
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