During the Senate oversight hearing in Frederiksted, May Adams Cornwall briefed the senators on the status of the Anguilla landfill on St. Croix and the Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas. As in a number of stateside landfills, fires have burned sporadically underground for years at Anguilla. A federal mandate to close the landfill and a worsening of the fire have made putting it out a priority.
"A series of smaller fires connected over the south and southwest slopes of the Anguilla Landfill," Cornwall said, "creating a situation of imminent failure and danger to the operating contractor and Waste Management staff, the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport operations and the surrounding community. … as these fires burn, the surface can cave in and people and equipment can fall into the fire."
The Anguilla Landfill is scheduled for closure on Dec. 31, 2009. Although no waste can be accepted after this date, federal law and a mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency require capping of the landfill, monitoring for environmental contamination, testing for levels of methane and other gases produced by buried garbage, and installation of a gas-collection system. The fire must be extinguished before these can be done, Cornwall said.
The Bovoni landfill will have to be closed in about seven years, she said.
This sort of fire suppression is highly specialized and, without the proper expertise, potentially dangerous, Cornwall said. Williams Fire and Hazard Control, a Texas-based industrial firefighting company, has been contracted, and the job is budgeted at $3.9 million. A week ago the V.I. Public Finance Authority authorized the release of capital bond funds for the job. (See "PFA Authorizes $14 Million to Buy Police Cars, Fight Landfill Fire.")
Work should begin May 12, Cornwall said.
"It is a 60-day project," she said. "They tend to come in, do the job and get out. It should be done on or before — more likely before — July 5. Waste Management will then proceed with EPA compliance work."
Asked how long the Anguilla landfill had been in operation, Cornwall and other testifiers conferred and estimated its genesis to be sometime around 1966 or '67. Cornwall said the monitoring and gas-collection measures were mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, but the closure was required by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The proximity of the landfill to the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport has caused the V.I. Port Authority to lose eligibility for the Federal Aviation Administration discretionary grant funds, said Clanicia Pelle of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources' Division of Environmental Protection.
This has cost the airport between $7.5 million and $10 million dollars annually in federal grants for capital projects at the St. Croix and St. Thomas airports, said Kenn Hobson, interim executive director of the Port Authority. Once the landfill is closed, those funds should flow again, allowing more capital improvements at both airports, he said.
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