Court’s Waste Management Hearing Focuses on EPA plans

Smoke billows on Sunday afternoon from a fire at the Anguilla Landfill, adjacent to the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)
The goal of the court in moving landfill progress forward comes despite fiscal limitations, frequent fires and failures by V.I. Waste Management to meet schedules to improve island landfills. (Source file photo by Susan Ellis)

The promise of federal help to replace St. Croix’s Anguilla Landfill offered a bit of hope at the most recent compliance hearing for the V.I. Waste Management Authority in District Court. A source with knowledge of the proceedings said Monday a commitment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gives support to local efforts to establish an alternate landfill site for the big island.

Under a longstanding settlement reached with the U.S. Justice Department, the EPA and Federal Aviation Administration, Anguilla was supposed to close Sept. 30, 2018. That was one year after two Category 5 hurricanes devastated the territory and left millions of tons of storm debris, along with the regular stream of household, commercial and construction waste.

Since the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Anguilla Landfill has been plagued by spontaneous fires. The latest blaze took place in early October.

According to the source – who asked not to be named – discussion consisted of the EPA’s solid waste characterization field study in the Virgin Islands and plans for a new Subtitle D municipal waste landfill.

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Notices of the agency’s attempt to obtain permits for the new facility were published in the Federal Register on June 7.

“The U.S. Virgin Islands has requested that EPA consider approving its Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Subtitle D municipal solid waste landfills [WSWLF] Permit Program,” the notice said.

District Court Judge Curtis Gomez held an evidentiary hearing Monday for both landfill compliance and Waste Management’s wastewater compliance cases. Up until now, landfills and wastewater has been the subject of separate hearings on different days.

The challenge facing the court has been to find some area where progress could be made, in spite of fiscal limitations, and shortfalls in Waste Management’s ability to complete compliance steps on time.

At previous landfill hearings this year, Waste Management Director Adrian Taylor described tests being conducted on a parcel in Estate Pearl, which he told the court was under consideration as a new municipal landfill. The subject came up during discussions of a previous Anguilla fire where heavy equipment, abandoned vehicles and part of the building used to store the trash compactor were damaged. Taylor said new vehicles to haul heavy equipment remained untouched by the fire because they were taken to Estate Pearl and stored at the second site.

A few weeks after that compliance hearing, Waste Management board member Keith Richards confirmed officials were looking at a parcel of land already owned by the V.I. government to host a new landfill for St. Croix.

Once a new, EPA approved site is endorsed, WMA officials told the court Monday they would like to develop a plan for processing trash and debris arriving on that site. If that step succeeds the material deposited in the fully lined, Subtitle D approved site would neither look like trash nor smell like trash.

A Request for Proposal has been posted on Waste Management’s website at www.viwma.org. It invites technology providers to submit proposals showing why their method of processing household trash and debris can achieve the agency’s goal.

The federal plan for new landfills in the Virgin Islands applies to both the Anguilla and Bovoni landfills on St. Thomas. Deadlines for both facilities to close have come and gone.

But the source, speaking on anonymity, said there’s less urgency to achieve replacement at Bovoni where Waste Management recently acquired an adjacent land parcel for expansion.

Attempts to reach Taylor for comment by phone were not returned this week.

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