The V.I. Waste Management Authority has applied for an extension of the deadline for closing the Anguilla Landfill, saying unusually heavy rains the last two months have put work slightly behind schedule, WMA Executive Director May Adams Cornwall said Wednesday.
The WMA board was scheduled to meet Wednesday morning, but was unable to gather a quorum. Cornwall took advantage of the time to discuss the progress on closing the landfill with the gathered media.
"We had rain delays that caused us to lose time in the beginning of the project," she said.
One of the earliest parts of the construction involved laying a cement slab to house trash baling equipment, but the rains that hit the island during November and early December slowed that work. It was difficult just accessing the site, Cornwall added.
After the skies mostly cleared, workers put in a yeoman effort, working late hours and weekends, she said. But just when they’d caught up, more rain came.
At stake is whether the territory will have to pay a $1,000 a day fine for missing a Feb. 1 deadline, the deadline for having the landfill completely shut down.
The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the landfill closed because scavenging birds and smoke from burning debris were a potential hazard to planes at the adjacent Henry E. Rohlsen International Airport.
Once the landfill stops accepting trash, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will require that it be capped, monitored for environmental contamination, tested for levels of methane and other gases produced by buried garbage, and have a gas-collection system installed.
Cornwall said WMA has applied to the V.I. Port Authority, which runs the airport, for an extension of the deadline and waiver of the daily fine. She said she expects the work to be completed by mid-February.
If VIPA approves the request, it will send it on to the FAA for final approval. Cornwall had not had a response to the appeal as of Wednesday morning.
Despite the rain, progress has been made, Cornwall said, announcing that the week after Christmas, workers will begin assembling the pre-fabricated building that will house the solid-waste processing equipment. The contractors have acquired extra lighting so that work can continue after sundown, Cornwall added.
WMA has hired "the best heavy construction contractor we know," she said, General Engineering Contractors Inc., which is subcontracting with Sanitas LLC. About 16 workers are employed on the site, she added.
The $9.2 million construction project is funded by $7 million in Public Finance Authority bonds and $2.2 million from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
When the landfill is closed, trash will be "spilled" on the floor of the building where inappropriate items, such as major appliances, will be removed and recyclable materials separated. The remaining trash will be fed into a shredder, which will reduce it to manageable shreds, and then baled. The bales, which will be about six feet by three feet by four feet, will then be wrapped in plastic, strapped, and used to help cap the Anguilla landfill in a process Cornwall expects will take about two to three years.
If no alternative has been found after the landfill is capped, further bales will be shipped to St. Thomas to help cap the Bovni landfill. After that, the territory will have to find some other place to store the bales, or some other way to get rid of them.
One possible alternative is a proposed "waste-to-energy" plant proposed for St. Croix. Its developer, the Colorado-based Alpine Energy Group, says it can take the garbage generated by V.I. residents and burn it to create electricity, selling it to the Water and Power Authority for a lower cost than the utility spends using fossil fuels.
Other alternatives include shipping the waste to other jurisdictions, such as Puerto Rico or Florida, but the cost would be prohibitive, Cornwall said.