Committee Receives Update On Consent Decree and Acts On Legislations

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St. Croix—the Committee on Housing, Public Works and Waste Management, chaired by Senator Marin A. Blyden met Thursday evening to consider a three item agenda in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room, Frederiksted.

The first item on the committee’s agenda was an update on the Consent Decree and Closure of the Virgin Islands Landfills.  In 2016, the Government of the Virgin Islands and the Waste Management Authority entered into a Consent Decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which outlines specific solutions to the environmental violations at the islands’ landfills.

The Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Commissioner, Dawn Henry said in a prepared statement that the, “Management of the Territory’s landfills is at critical point.” The commissioner further indicated that Bovoni Landfill is projected to reach capacity in January of 2017 and the Anguilla site in September 2017.  “We need to immediately seek alternative means of disposing of more than 350 tons per day of solid waste territory wide,” said Henry.

On August 23, 2016, the District of the court of the Virgin Islands held a status conference to receive an update from the Government of the Virgin Islands regarding progress made in complying with the Consent Decree.  According to Commissioner Henry, the only progress that was made was with the 10-million-dollar bond authorization; however, the DPNR Commissioner said that she will be in court on Friday, September 9, 2016 to provide an additional update on the compliance efforts.

Also testifying from the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority were Ann Hanley, Acting Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Vincent A. Ebberson, Solid Waste Director both of whom came under questioning and confirmed to Senators that there was a job action on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 which affected the Transfer Station and as a result hampered trash handling on St. Croix.  The acting COO reassured the committee that a partial payment will be made on Thursday, September 8, 2016.

On the matter of the proposed legislations, Chairman Blyden said the two Bills 31-0316 and 31-0380 have both been before the committee before but a need to revisit the proposed legislations along with any necessary amendments would ensure the best measures that would be beneficial to the territory.

Bill No. 31-0316 which is an Act proposing to amend the VI Code and to establish a comprehensive waste reduction, recycling and composting program in the Virgin Islands, and Bill No. 31-0380 seeks to establish a Source Separation Law in the Virgin Islands to promote the general health, welfare and safety of the residents and protect the environment all the while managing the solid waste steam in the Virgin Islands.

After several rounds of questions, the committee unanimously voted and approved the two measures which were then forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Senators in attendance for Thursday evening’s meeting were: Marvin A. Blyden (Chair); Clifford F. Graham (Vice Chair); Jean A. Forde; Neville A. James; Almando “Rocky” Liburd; Kenneth L. Gittens, Novelle E. Francis, Jr.; Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly; Non-committee members in attendance included Senators Myron D. Jackson; Kurt A. Vialet and Positive T.A. Nelson.

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