The mess at Benner Bay and the investigation of contaminated water at Joseph E. Sibilly Elementary School will be the subjects of the Senate Planning and Environmental Protection Committee meeting Thursday.
The committee will take testimony beginning at 10 a.m. on the "polluted and debris-ridden" Benner Bay, which has been officially designated as an area of particular environmental concern, according to a release from Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg's office.
Donastorg, who heads the committee, said the bay contains some of the island's few remaining mangrove systems, thus making it "ecologically very important."
At 4 p.m. the committee will hear testimony on the water contamination at Sibilly School. Asked to testify are:
Jim Casey, V.I. Environmental Protection Agency coordinator.
Dean Plaskett, Planning and Natural Resources commissioner.
Ruby Simmonds, Education commissioner.
Dr. Audria Thomas of the Health Department.
Christine Lottes from Planning and Natural Resources.
Henry Smith from the Water Resources Institute.
Rosalia Payne, St. Thomas-St. John district school superintendent.
Dora Hill, Sibilly School principal.
The public became aware in late August, days before school was to start, that volatile organic chemicals had been found in the water at the elementary school. The cistern at the school was drained and cleaned, and students and staff were tested for any affects of the contamination.
In early December officials from the federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry of the Department of Health and Human Services were brought to the territory to answer questions and try to quell concerns about the short- and long-term effects of the exposure to the VOCs. The toxicologist from ATSDR said he felt confident there would be no long- or short-term effects, given the minute amount of contaminants found and the relatively short exposure time thought to be no more than three years.
Donastorg said Monday, "Many disturbing questions about this situation remain on my mind and on the minds of the parents of the affected students. I am inviting parents and others to come out once again to discuss this very important issue."