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HomeNewsLocal newsEPA Orders Fix to STX Sewer Line Leaking Hydrogen Sulfide

EPA Orders Fix to STX Sewer Line Leaking Hydrogen Sulfide

EPA officials learned firsthand about the economic and operational challenges of the wastewater treatment plant and landfill in Anguilla on St. Croix. (EPA photo)

The V.I. Waste Management Authority has entered a consent agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency to address hydrogen sulfide odors in a sewer line at the Anguilla Wastewater Treatment Plant on St. Croix.

The EPA detected the problem while it was on-island in May to monitor air quality issues at the Limetree Bay Refinery, unrelated to the Waste Management Authority, the agency said in a press release.

“As part of this air monitoring effort, EPA detected hydrogen sulfide emissions from manhole covers in a sewer pipe that runs through Renaissance Park on St. Croix and Melvin H. Evans Highway along the Anguilla sewer pipe,” the EPA said. “The Anguilla sewer pipe, as well as the manhole covers, are components of the … Anguilla sanitary sewer system. Hydrogen sulfide is produced during the growth of bacteria under the water line in any sewer pipe. Additionally, sediment and debris deposited to the bottom of a sewer pipe contribute to the formation of hydrogen sulfide.”

The consent order, which includes an action plan, will enhance Waste Management’s operation and management of the sewer line, which will improve the way wastewater flows through the pipe and could reduce hydrogen sulfide odors, the EPA said.

“This voluntary compliance and consent agreement is the result of coordination between EPA and the Virgin Islands government to address sewer contamination in St. Croix environmental justice communities already disproportionately affected by the issues,” said Walter Mugdan, acting regional administrator for EPA Region 2. “The government of the Virgin Islands is committed to complying with environmental standards in order to prevent and address pollution caused by defects in this system of sewerage.”

The Waste Management Authority owns and operates the Harold Thompson Sanitary Sewer and Treatment System, also known as the Anguilla Wastewater Treatment Plant, on St. Croix, and is responsible for maintaining the sewer pipes that carry wastewater to the plant, the EPA said. Sanitary sewer systems are designed to collect wastewater from homes and other buildings and transfer it to the wastewater treatment plant, the agency said.

Veolia's wastewater treatment plant on St. Thomas. (Photo from Veolia's website)
Wastewater treatment such as at this St. Thomas plant has been the subject of a consent decree in the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1984. (Image from Veolia website)

The Waste Management Authority, created in 2004, has been operating under a federal consent decree that predates its formation as an agency by 20 years. The United States filed a complaint against the government of the Virgin Islands in 1984, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act.

Since then, the authority has had sporadic failures of its wastewater plants, including in July 2020, when EPA issued a notice of violation over problems at the Anguilla plant that prevented the proper processing of raw sewage.

EPA, Waste Management, and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources have coordinated to determine what steps should be taken to improve the maintenance of the Anguilla sewer pipeline, the agency said in its press release Thursday. The consent order requires the authority to submit a detailed plan of corrective actions, conduct a comprehensive study of the sewer line and report the results to the EPA.

“This Consent Order does not relate to EPA’s work at Limetree Bay Terminals, LLC or Limetree Bay Refining LLC,” the agency said in the press release.

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