A sewage system problem has been named as the possible source of a foul odor that has come and gone from Frederiksted twice in the last week, causing the shutdown of Frederiksted Health Care.
Both the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the V.I. Waste Management Authority reported on the situation Tuesday evening.
The odor first struck the community Friday, shutting down the clinic and sickening some people. By the time inspectors could get to Frederiksted to investigate, the fetid aroma had dissipated.
Tuesday morning it came again: a foul, sewage-like miasma permeating throughout the Frederiksted area, noticeable as far away as Estates Whim and Upper Love.
According to DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes, the department discovered that the VIWMA has been conducting maintenance work on the sewage infrastructure in the Frederiksted area.
A separate news release Tuesday night from VIWMA said the authority had discovered an intermittent manhole overflow Monday morning, but downplayed the possibility that that was the cause of the larger problem.
“We understand that the odor being experienced in Frederiksted impacts the neighborhoods from Estate Whim and envelopes the Frederiksted town area," VIWMA Executive Director May Adams Cornwall said. "The odor that was being emitted from the minor manhole overflow was unlikely to cause such widespread impact and did not coincide with the initial onset of the odor on Friday.”
Cornwall said the problem had been corrected by Tuesday afternoon. The overflow was caused by a blocked sewer line adjacent to the Fish Market.
Odor suppressant has been applied to the immediate area, the authority’s release said.
The project work at the Fish Market is part of an upgrade of the Frederiksted sewer system and includes the upgrade of existing infrastructure through the rehabilitation of seven manholes and the replacement of 200 linear feet of old six-inch line with six-inch PVC.
DPNR directed VIWMA to make an assessment of its system and to flush the infrastructure throughout the town while also adding a deodorizing agent during this process.
DPNR’s Air Pollution Control team also responded to the complaints and has conducted site inspections of major facilities and other users of propane in and around the impacted area. The department said no abnormalities had been detected.
DPNR said it will continue to monitor the situation and advise the community accordingly.
Questions or concerns can be reported by calling DPNR at (340) 773-1082 ext. 2252.
Frederiksted Health Care has twice closed its Strand Street clinic because of the severity of the stench. Several individuals on site were assessed and treated due to a reaction from the odor. Friday’s initial aroma outburst caused at least one individual to seek services at the emergency room.
FHC spokesman Jason Henry said Friday the odor "smelled like propane."
"It engulfed the building and people were getting sick because of the odor. Some were actually throwing up," Henry said Friday afternoon.
Masserae Sprauve-Webster, chief executive officer of Frederiksted Health Care, apologized for the inconvenience and asked all clients with appointments for the remainder of Tuesday to call the office – at 1-340-772-0260 – Wednesday morning to reschedule.