Aug. 24, 2005 — More than 45 people showed up Tuesday night for the first of a series of meetings called to establish Waste Management Authority citizens committees. The authority is planning to create citizen advisory committee on each island to gain public support for its waste management projects.
The meeting was held at the Education Department's Curriculum Center in Kingshill.
WMA executive director May Adams Cornwall said the committee would be a diverse group with various skills, from different age groups and from various communities across the island. Members will be chosen based on information contained in their application.
The advisory groups will focus on different problems on each island, Cornwall said. The St. Croix group will concentrate on the integrated solid waste management plan. The St. Thomas group will focus on moving the community from bin drop off to household pick up and the St. John group will look for alternate disposal for batteries and other industrial waste.
Herman Fahie, WMA wastewater director, said public input is key to solving wastewater treatment problem. "The system is in bad shape," Fahie said. The authority recently completed an evaluation of the St. Croix sewer system and will move on to evaluate the St. Thomas and St. John system. St. Thomas has 8 treatment plants while St. Croix has 15 pump stations and one treatment plant. Fahie explained that the differences in the systems between the two islands have to do with the landscape. He said the authority would be engaging in massive construction projects, which would cause traffic issues. The citizen's committee would assist with public input and support for the projects. Fahie said the authority has plans to control sewage odor around the Beeston Hill and Melvin Evans Highway.
Kelly Groger of Sustainable Systems, who has been pushing for a constructed wetland for wastewater treatment said the meeting and the involvement of the community is an important issue. Groger signed up for a spot on the advisory committee. "We are a small island," Groger said. It's not economical to send our waste off island. We have to find a solution."
John Green, WMA environmental programs director, explained why the authority was seeking community input. "When the government tries to do this by itself it doesn't work so we say lets start from the beginning and invite the community," Green said. "That way the decisions will be our decisions."
Semaj Johnson asked if the decisions made by the committee would be implemented. Cornwall said they would.
"Education is one of the biggest up hill climbs," Cletus Emmanuel said. He asked what was the authority's position on recycling.
"Diversion of waste has to be economical," Cornwall said. "Why bother to sort if there is no use for the byproduct?" Cornwall said the committee would have to come to consensus on issues such as recycling and the site of a new landfill.
"There is cash in trash," Warrington Chapman, WMA solid waste director, said. "Virgin Islanders produce 11.4 pounds of waste per person, per day," Chapman said. "That is a significant amount."
Chapman said he hopes the community will become a "significant partner" in waste management.
Rafael Llanos said it's not convenient to throw away your waste. "There are not enough trash receptacles in town," Llanos said. Although Llanos said he was happy with his household trash pick up he said there were not enough collection sites for appliances and other bulk items.
Many of the attendees filled out application to get a place on the advisory board. "I'm going to join," Olu Massey said. "I live here, its important for all of us who live here to be involved and we need the community to take an interest in our environment."
Johnson, who recently returned home after graduating from Wesleyan University and the Howard University School of Law, said the advisory committee is a step in the right direction. "The community needs vocal representation; the committee is critical to insuring public input."
Cornwall said the authority would begin selecting members soon. "Calls will go out to prospective members after Labor Day."
On Wednesday the meeting will move to St. Thomas Education Department's Curriculum Center in Tutu and on Thursday, St. Johnians will get a chance to hear the pitch at the Julius E. Sprauve School cafeteria. All meetings begin at 6 p.m. and are expected to end at 8 p.m.
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