Garbage haulers on St. John heard a discouraging word from the Public Works Department Friday night: The transfer station at Susannaberg will remain closed until spring.
The status of landfill operations was raised during a hearing at the Legislative Conference Room in Cruz Bay. St. John administrator Julien Harley arranged the meeting after the breakdown of the transfer station compactor forced officials to close the facility last month. Since then, St. John's private trash collectors have joined trash haulers under contract to the government in barging their garbage to the Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas.
Representatives of Penn Enterprises and Ken's Trucking, the two local trash collectors whose jobs used to be done once they dropped their loads at the transfer station, told Public Works assistant commissioner Wayne Callwood that the added work has slowed their operations dramatically increased their operating costs.
"Private haulers will have to continue to haul trash to St. Thomas," heavy equipment businessman Elvis Marsh said. "By April, they may have Susannaberg back on line in operation. For everybody it means they will have a higher cost of business because everybody will have to pay the barge to go to St. Thomas." The result, he said, will be felt by customers of the private trash collectors, who will have to pass along the barging costs.
Sonia Nelthropp, solid waste and waste water manager for Public Works, said workers have taken preliminary steps toward repair of the compactor. The bottom and loading ramp of the device separated from the unit around Nov. 15. She said the ramp has been removed and the trash that was loaded in the compactor feeder has been taken out — a job she described as overwhelming because of the rotting of matter that had been in the unit for more than three weeks. Also, Nelthropp said, debris that had accumulated on the ground around the machine has been cleaned up.
Some of the collectors who do not work under contract with the government suggested setting up a private transfer station that would allow them to process trash that Public Works could then send their contractors to pick up and haul to Bovoni. Callwood expressed support for the idea but said it probably wouldn't happen any time soon. He did suggest, however, that once the transfer station at Susannaberg is operational again, it might be possible to lease space to businesses interested in setting up their own transfer station.
Nelthropp said partial privatization of solid and liquid waste management could be lucrative. Every week, she said, mainland business operators contact her because they have heard about the waste problems plaguing the Virgin Islands and recognize the money-making potential of providing solutions. But she cautioned against total privatization, saying that once private companies maximized their earning potentials here, they might move on to greener pastures, leaving the territory with no waste disposal system in place.


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