On Monday the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit in U.S. District Court on St. Thomas against the V.I. government for its failure to live up to the terms of consent decrees between the V.I. Waste Management Agency, the V.I. government and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The consent decrees concern the Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas and the Anguilla landfill on St. Croix. The Bovoni consent decree was filed March 19, 2012. The Anguilla consent decree was filed Jan 14, 2013.
“There are a number of issues with both these landfills,” EPA spokesman John Martin said from his New York office.
Martin said he couldn’t comment on why the V.I. Waste Management Authority failed to live up to the terms of the consent decrees.
The suit mandates that the local government and VIWMA pay the federal government $2.5 million in penalties accrued through Oct. 31 for their failure to comply with the two consent decrees.
Additionally the suit mandates that VIWMA “expeditiously abate the subsurface fires at Bovoni and Anguilla.”
The authority must also submit a correct gas collection and control system plan for Bovoni that address the previous plan’s deficiencies. It must include a plan for a temporary gas collection system and “accounts for fire damage.” The Bovoni gas collection system was destroyed by a fire earlier this year.
The suit mandates VIWMA address the problem of the very steep slopes at Bovoni by building a masonry wall on the east side of the landfill and a structural fill berm on the west side. They must also get the proper permits for the projects.
According to the court document, the government shall immediately seek approval from the Legislature to float bonds to pay for all the obligations agreed to under the two consent decrees.
V.I. Waste Management Authority Director May Adams Cornwall, VIWMA Chief Operations Officer Steven Aubin and Government House spokeswoman Kim Jones could not be reached for comment Monday evening.
The ultimate goal of the consent decrees is to close both landfills. According the consent decree, the target date for Anguilla is June 30, 2020. The Bovoni consent decree doesn’t indicate a specific date but notes it must be closed two years and two months after it stops accepting waste on April 30, 2019.
At an April hearing in the Legislature, VIWMA officials said it would cost $75.4 million to close both landfills.
Monday’s suit is the latest salvo from the EPA in its decades-long efforts to bring the landfills into compliance with federal regulations.
“We take this very seriously,” Martin said.