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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesTortola Dump Fire Brings Smoke to St. John

Tortola Dump Fire Brings Smoke to St. John

A view of the smoke, taken last week from the barge leaving Red Hook, St. Thomas to Cruz Bay. (Photo courtesy Sharon Coldren)When the wind is right, St. John residents living on the eastern end of the island often feel like they’re living in an ash tray because the Tortola dump is on fire again.
“My eyes are burning and you smell it. It permeates the house,” East End resident Jean Cottrell said Tuesday.
On Wednesday the smoke was still blowing and visible from many spots on St. John.
While area residents have intermittently put up with this problem for years, Cottrell and Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren said the latest incident began about three weeks ago.
Solving the problem is in the hands of the B.V.I. government, which met in November 2009 with local and federal officials, as well as Coldren, in the B.V.I. to discuss the issue.
At that time the B.V.I. government said that a new incinerator would be online in the second quarter of 2010.
However, that time frame is long past, and the smoke issue has returned.
Anselm Myers, who heads the B.V.I. government’s Solid Waste Department, did not return phone calls made Tuesday and Wednesday requesting information.
Coldren suggested that the fire is underground, a problem that won’t be solved by a new incinerator.
Jim Casey, who serves as the coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said that his agency was asked to provide technical support to the Planning and Natural Resources Department (DPNR) in its efforts to monitor the problem.
“We are in a preparatory mode,” Casey said.
DPNR spokesman Jamal Nielsen said the department has no authority to force the B.V.I. government to solve the smoke problem.
“It’s out of our jurisdiction,” Nielsen said.
He referred further questions to Government House because it’s an international matter. David Edgecombe, a special assistant for external affairs to Gov. John deJongh Jr., said that he’s waiting to hear back from the B.V.I. government as to what’s causing the fire and why the new incinerator hasn’t been installed.
He also said there was nothing the government could do to force the B.V.I. government to resolve the issue.
“It’s a sovereign state,” he said.
Casey said that in 2009 the EPA brought staff from the mainland to monitor the smoke in Coral Bay. At that time, Casey said his agency offered help to the B.V.I..
“We haven’t heard back,” he said.
He said the agency is still willing to assist the B.V.I. in the matter.
How bad the smoke is depends on the prevailing winds, as well as the extent of the fire. Casey said that the fire had subsided some when the monitors were last on island so they didn’t get to sample the fire at its worst.
No carcinogens turned up in the monitored smoke, Casey said, but Dr. Eugene Tull at the V.I. Health Department said that the smoke is an irritant that affects the nose, throat and eyes.

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A view of the smoke, taken last week from the barge leaving Red Hook, St. Thomas to Cruz Bay. (Photo courtesy Sharon Coldren)When the wind is right, St. John residents living on the eastern end of the island often feel like they’re living in an ash tray because the Tortola dump is on fire again.
“My eyes are burning and you smell it. It permeates the house,” East End resident Jean Cottrell said Tuesday.
On Wednesday the smoke was still blowing and visible from many spots on St. John.
While area residents have intermittently put up with this problem for years, Cottrell and Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren said the latest incident began about three weeks ago.
Solving the problem is in the hands of the B.V.I. government, which met in November 2009 with local and federal officials, as well as Coldren, in the B.V.I. to discuss the issue.
At that time the B.V.I. government said that a new incinerator would be online in the second quarter of 2010.
However, that time frame is long past, and the smoke issue has returned.
Anselm Myers, who heads the B.V.I. government’s Solid Waste Department, did not return phone calls made Tuesday and Wednesday requesting information.
Coldren suggested that the fire is underground, a problem that won’t be solved by a new incinerator.
Jim Casey, who serves as the coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said that his agency was asked to provide technical support to the Planning and Natural Resources Department (DPNR) in its efforts to monitor the problem.
“We are in a preparatory mode,” Casey said.
DPNR spokesman Jamal Nielsen said the department has no authority to force the B.V.I. government to solve the smoke problem.
“It’s out of our jurisdiction,” Nielsen said.
He referred further questions to Government House because it’s an international matter. David Edgecombe, a special assistant for external affairs to Gov. John deJongh Jr., said that he’s waiting to hear back from the B.V.I. government as to what’s causing the fire and why the new incinerator hasn’t been installed.
He also said there was nothing the government could do to force the B.V.I. government to resolve the issue.
“It’s a sovereign state,” he said.
Casey said that in 2009 the EPA brought staff from the mainland to monitor the smoke in Coral Bay. At that time, Casey said his agency offered help to the B.V.I..
“We haven’t heard back,” he said.
He said the agency is still willing to assist the B.V.I. in the matter.
How bad the smoke is depends on the prevailing winds, as well as the extent of the fire. Casey said that the fire had subsided some when the monitors were last on island so they didn’t get to sample the fire at its worst.
No carcinogens turned up in the monitored smoke, Casey said, but Dr. Eugene Tull at the V.I. Health Department said that the smoke is an irritant that affects the nose, throat and eyes.