For the second time in six months, the Waste Management Authority has told a federal court it cannot comply with the terms of a nine-year-old consent decree calling for closure of St. Croix’s Anguilla Landfill. The statement was contained in a submission of documents made March 28.
WMA officials also told the court it will not meet a fast approaching deadline to close St. Thomas’ Bovoni Landfill by April 30. The reasons for non-compliance, they said, were money, time and space.
According to the terms of two separate consent decrees reached in 2012, Anguilla and Bovoni were scheduled to close on Sept. 30, 2018, and April 30, 2019, respectively. Lawyers representing the agency say they hope to have a revised Bovoni closure plan in place by July.
And in order to meet the court’s orders to shut down Anguilla and Bovoni, space is needed to replace them. Goldsmith said alternative sites are being identified for creation of a new St. Croix landfill.
For St. Thomas, the focus is on site expansion and a parcel of land has been identified for that purpose, he said.
But getting it all done will take more time than the decree allows. Goldsmith added that WMA may need two to four more years to meet those goals.
WMA officials recently told the 33rd Legislature Committee on Government Operations, Consumers and Veterans Affairs that funding shortfalls have hurt their operations.
With an anticipated shortfall of $44 million in FY 2019, testifiers said they could not meet the cost of carrying out the consent decree’s action steps, estimated at $30 million a year.
Funding shortfalls are also a reason why some of the 25 mandated steps ordered for Anguilla and some of the 17 steps outlined for Bovoni have not been met. Unfulfilled compliance steps identified by WMA include lingering piles of used tires, groundwater monitoring systems and creation of a gas collection and control system for Anguilla.
In those sections of the revised plan, WMA has listed itself “out of compliance.”
Even after the agency meets the mandates, the court requires them to insure that remnants of the old sites cause no further harm to the environment.
A revised timeline to accomplish the closures came as the result of a Feb. 28 court order by District Court Judge Curtis Gomez. Gomez directed that a new timetable showing a list of tasks needed to accomplish closure be turned in by March 12. The agency missed the deadline, coming in with revisions on March 28.
The most recent filing is the Virgin Islands Landfill Status Report. It proposes new dates for the removal of scrap tires, scrap metal, cleanup of contamination in scrap storage sites at Anguilla; mitigation of hazardous gases produced by decomposing trash, and fulfilling provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
All of which became subjects of the consent decree when their completion dates lapsed in the late 2000s.
It also lays out which goals the agency thinks it can accomplish on time and which ones it can’t.
The site search is one step in developing a proposal to achieve “all closure procedures for the existing Anguilla landfill turn on the development and buildout of a new landfill,” Goldsmith said.
Other shortfalls were also addressed in the revisions. Some problems have persisted for close to a decade, including used tires that continue to arrive at landfill sites, the lack of a system to monitor groundwater pollution, and not enough landfill supply on St. Croix to fortify the ground for a gas control system.
The chairman of the Senate committee hearing the catalog of woe from WMA on March 1 pointed to the challenge ahead.
“The WMA is trying to overcome some seemingly insurmountable problems by themselves. I believe if they reach out to other central government agency heads, they will realize how the resources of others can help them manage their situation a little better,” Senator Athniel Thomas said at the hearing.
But Thomas could not say if that help, or the development of creative opportunities to obtain funding, might show up in time.
It will be up to the court to either accept, reject or order further revisions of that plan. As of the last status hearing on Feb. 26, the chances seemed slim.
Gomez pointed out that nine years had passed since Waste Management agreed to comply with the decree but had not done as much as was needed. Will it take another 10 years before compliance is reached, the judge asked.