As the Senate’s Committee on Planning and Natural Resources met on St. Croix Friday to discuss pollution in the territory, a fire broke out at the island’s landfill.
Midway through the session, aimed at beefing up the V.I.’s pollution compliance standards, Harold Thompson, commissioner of Public Works and the operator of the territory’s landfills, asked to be dismissed. Moments later word was circulated through the legislative chambers that the landfill was on fire.
Later Friday afternoon, Thompson said the V.I. Fire Service and the department’s contractor who covers waste at the landfill was using heavy equipment to out the blaze, but it still was not controlled. He said he was not sure when it would be extinguished. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Although the fire was sending plumes of smoke toward the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, Thompson said he wasn’t aware of any problems with flights there.
"We haven’t received any reports from the Port Authority," he said.
The most recent blaze at the landfill was last summer, when a tire fire sent clouds of black smoke wafting over the west end. That fire burned for two days.
The V.I.. government, meanwhile, has been ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration to close the Anguilla Landfill because the birds it attracts are a danger to incoming and outgoing aircraft. The FAA wants the facility shut down by December 2002, or else million of dollars in grants the Port Authority has received for a runway extension project could turn into loans.
Thompson said Public Works was finishing a request for proposals for solid-waste management facilities on both St. Croix and St. Thomas.
"A RFP should be out very shortly from the Department of Property and Procurement," he said. "Our target is by mid-summer to have selected and negotiated with a firm."
Because of the FAA deadline on St. Croix and lack of a suitable space on both islands for a new landfill, Thompson said, the department is looking at "some type of thermal treatment" to dispose of garbage.
"We don’t have the luxury of land to fill or the time for the rezoning process," he said in regard to the situation on St. Croix. "Our struggle is to get the volume of waste down."


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