June 16, 2009 — Federal economic stimulus grant proposals that would allow the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to improve public water systems and identify underground storage tank leaks made a clean sweep Tuesday through the Senate's Appropriations and Budget Committee.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides funding for specific programs administered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, an Office of Management and Budget official explained Tuesday. A grant of nearly $2 million in Drinking Water State Revolving Funds will be put toward improving local public water systems, which will keep the territory in compliance with federal Safe Water Drinking Act mandates, according to Nadine Norhassan, director of DPNR's Division of Environmental Protection.
Some of the money — about four percent — would also cover administrative expenses for the territory's Drinking Water Capital Improvements Grant Program and technical assistance for smaller systems on the department's priority project list, she said. About 35 percent of the funds will be used to finance projects for small-to-medium sized systems, while not less than 20 percent of the funds are required to be put toward water efficiency, energy efficiency, green infrastructure or other environmental projects and programs, Norhassan explained.
Another grant of $57,000 from the federal Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund will help DPNR pinpoint underground petroleum tank leaks and oversee cleanup efforts at possible contamination sites such as old gas stations, convenience stores or government agencies that have fuel storage tanks underground. DPNR will be issuing an administrative order to owners with underground storage tanks to check for possible leaks and will use some of the ARRA funding to fix them if the property owner can't pay for it, said Hilarie Baker, OMB associate director.
An extra $100,000 in federal water quality management planning funds would also help DPNR preserve the territory's "pristine" waters, Norhassan said later. The grant goes toward developing, revising and reviewing local water quality standards, and determining the maximum amount of pollution — or total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) — a body of water can take before the water quality is affected, among other things.
The first set of TMDLs will be developed for the eastern coast of St. Croix, specifically Green Cay and Tamarind Reef, and will focus on sediment, turbidity, pathogens and dissolved oxygen. The resulting TMDL will list sources of pollution within the area and methods of reducing the pollution.
Some of the stimulus money would also be used to launch an investigation into what kind of technology and methods — such as rain gardens and parking lot infiltration systems — can be used manage storm water runoff and conserve water.
Senators also approved:
– an approximately $3.8 million National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant to the V.I. Resource Conservation and Development Council to improve the condition of local coral reef ecosystems and implement various watershed management and stabilization techniques at East End Bay and Teague Bay on St. Croix and Fish Bay and Coral Bay on St. John;
– a $45,000 grant for the V.I. Resource Conservation and Development Council's "Leave Paradise in its Place" campaign, intended to educate the public on the importance of minimizing the human impact on coral reefs.
Present during Tuesday's meeting were Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Louis P. Hill, Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Patrick Simeon Sprauve.
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