Adrian Taylor, acting executive director of V.I. Waste Management Authority, came before the Senate Committee on Housing, Transportation, Infrastructure and Telecommunications with a nine-page report including plans to implement fees, litter education programs and landfill projects.
Senators on Wednesday countered with photographs of garbage and sitting water. Senators were adamant that something be done about illegal dumping and the overflowing garbage at bin sites.
Sens. Marvin Blyden and Novelle Francis Jr. said strict enforcement was the answer. Francis said the only way those breaking dumping and littering laws would change their behavior is “to hit them where it hurts.”
WMA currently has only one active enforcement officer on St. Thomas and two on St. Croix. Taylor said the St. Thomas officer was responsible for monitoring the landfill and the bin sites.
“He will spend most of his time traveling,” Blyden said. “He won’t have time to do anything.”
A WMA official said the agency has taken 11 people to court for dumping violations this year. Blyden countered, “I could see a hundred violations in two days.”
Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory had researched the history of cases brought to court for illegal dumping. She said in five years 187 people had been taken to court, 141 pled guilty.
Keith Richards, chair of the WMA board, said, “The enforcement office system is not working. As soon as we train them, they go somewhere else.” He said WMA could not afford to pay the salary that the police department and other agencies paid.
Frett-Gregory said, “The government has failed the people when it comes to waste management.” She said if the people wanted clean islands they had to pay. She said she didn’t think garbage was picked up free anywhere else in the world besides the Virgin Islands.
Taylor testified, “The authority continues its plan to eliminate all public unmanned bin sites throughout the territory. Unmanned bin sites that are open for residential use lend themselves to illegal dumping, unsanitary practices which pose a health risk, diminishes the aesthetics of the surrounding area, and increase operational costs to the authority.”
He said the authority plans to construct 16 convenience centers in the territory modeled on the one presently operating on St. Croix.
Sen. Javan James called the center at Peter’s Rest “a beautiful site.” The site is manned and maintained by WMA workers and has areas specifically set aside for plastic, recyclables, electronic waste and household waste.
Blyden wanted to know if the house pickup would still be maintained with the new convenience centers in place. He said, “A lot of folks do not drive. How do we assist those people?”
Richards said Waste Management had to expand its house-to-house pickup.
Taylor said there were reasons that house-to-house and bin collections get delayed. They included equipment failures and contractors not being paid in a timely manner.
He testified the authority will increase media announcements as well as make presentations to groups and classrooms to educate the public on the environmental rules and regulations.
“Successful solid waste management is dependent on the active participation of the general public,” he said.
Residents can report incidents of illegal dumping by calling the authority’s hotline at 844-962-8784.
Attending the hearing were Sens. Alicia Barnes, Blyden, Allison DeGazon, Francis, Frett-Gregory, Stedmann Hodge Jr., Myron Jackson and James.
The hearing ended abruptly about 1:30 p.m. because of a gas leak in a nearby building.