Aug. 15, 2001– The Turnbull administration and the V.I. Port Authority have signed an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the Anguilla Landfill on St. Croix.
A history of violations of federal solid-waste requirements at the landfill has created problems that EPA believes may pose an "imminent and substantial endangerment to public health and the environment," said EPA spokeswoman Nina Habib Spencer in a release Wednesday. By signing what is technically called a consent order, the local government and the Port Authority have pledged to make improvements to the landfill to reduce any risks.
Over the years, EPA inspections and information obtained by the agency revealed that practices taking place at Anguilla Landfill violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the law that regulates hazardous and solid waste.
In 1993, the V.I. government applied to the EPA for approval of a solid-waste program. According to the EPA, the territory was then advised that to receive full approval, it would have to have regulations comparable to or stricter than federal guidelines in place by May 1996. The EPA also called for the local government to commit staff and financial resources to operate the Anguilla Landfill and the Bovoni Landfill on St. Thomas in accordance with federal standards.
It took seven years for the Planning and Natural Resources Department to submit an acceptable plan. Meanwhile, because of the threat to human health and the environment, the EPA in April of 2000 ordered the cleanup of the Bovoni Landfill. Issued with the consent of the local government, the action was one step short of the agency taking unilateral action to force compliance.
The agreement on the Anguilla Landfill occurred under similar circumstances. Such orders can either be agreed to consensually by EPA and the entity that would perform the work, as is the case of Anguilla Landfill, or may be issued unilaterally by EPA, Spencer said.
What must be done
The work required under the proposed Anguilla Landfill order focuses on the following:
– A large used-tire pile in a part of the landfill that is inaccessible to emergency vehicles.
– The lack of inspection of incoming waste to make sure hazardous wastes, which are not permitted in the landfill, are not being deposited.
– The lack of groundwater monitoring under and around the landfill.
– The inadequacy of the fencing around the facility, which does little to prevent unauthorized access or the illegal disposal of hazardous waste.
– The presence of surface fires and long-burning underground fires.
Despite the longstanding problems, William Muszynski, EPA’s acting regional administrator, said the agency is "very pleased that the government of the Virgin Islands and the Port Authority have agreed that the Anguilla Landfill is in need of immediate improvement. EPA has the highest expectations that these two entities, working together, will bring about changes in the day-to-day management of the landfill that are so desperately required to protect Virgin Islanders and the ecosystems they depend on."
The timeline
As part of the consent agreement, the V.I Department of Public Works must continue to:
– Put at least six inches of cover on top of working areas of the landfill at the end of each operating day in order to control litter, scavenging and the spread of disease.
– Put procedures in place to prevent hazardous waste from being disposed of at the landfill, including conducting random inspections of incoming waste and training personnel.
– Within 45 days, the Port Authority must submit for EPA's approval the specifications for a high-grade chain-link fence at least 10 feet high, around the landfill to secure it against unauthorized entry. The new fence must be installed and the existing fencing repaired within 150 days.
– Within 180 days the Port Authority must build an observation deck or other structure that allows for visual inspection of incoming truckloads of waste. The Port Authority will submit a drawing and list of specifications for the structure for EPA's review prior to building it.
– Within the next year, DPW must submit a plan and schedule to EPA for managing scrap tires in a way that will reduce the potential for fire. The tires in the existing pile will be relocated inside or outside the landfill to an appropriate location. DPW will also make plans for the future proper disposal of tires that include measures to reduce the threat of fire and control vermin, mosquitoes and other insects. EPA will review the plan.
– The Port Authority and DPW will submit a financial plan to EPA estimating the costs of the projects detailed in the order and identifying funding sources.
– DPW must submit to EPA a plan to investigate the presence of subsurface fires. EPA will review the plan and make any necessary revisions before it is implemented. If the investigation indicates the presence of such fires, within 60 days, DPW will adopt a plan to extinguish them.
– DPW will submit a plan and timetable to EPA for bringing the landfill into full compliance with all federal solid-waste regulations. The plan must include measures to collect leachate (rainwater that trickles through the waste) and to monitor the groundwater to make certain it is not being negatively impacted by chemicals from the landfill. EPA will review the plan and may make modifications before it is put into effect.
"We recognize some of these goals will take a while to plan out," Spencer said in a phone interview from New York. "For example, the tire issue is one that is going to take the government some time to figure out what it is going to do."
The airport question
The Federal Aviation Administration, meanwhile, has identified the landfill as a hazard to planes leaving from and arriving at the adjacent Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, due to the presence of scavenging birds. The Turnbull administration is under pressure from the FAA to close the landfill by the end of 2002 or have it deemed unsafe, a move that would essentially close the facility down.
The Turnbull administration has yet to choose an alternative site for the landfill. At the end of May, Kent Bernier, Turnbull’s economic policy advisor who is working to develop the territory's waste management strategy and put together a plan for financing it, said the ideal solution would be to site the landfill where it will achieve two purposes: satisfy the FAA's concerns and at the same time position a garbage transfer site to accommodate eventual disposal by methods acceptable to the EPA.
In a May 30 article, Bernier told The Source he believes such a site can be identified by the end of summer. "Within 90 days we'll have an answer on the permanent solution, we are still in negotiations," he said.
Bernier said the government wants to make certain that the proposal is in full federal compliance before it is presented to the public.
Meanwhile, a public meeting to discuss Wednesday's order between the EPA, Port Authority and the Turnbull administration will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 22 at the V.I. Department of Education Curriculum Center in Kingshill. Members of the public may examine the proposed order at the DPW offices in Anna's Hope, and may submit written comments to EPA. The agency will evaluate all comments and will modify the order if necessary.
Comments must be postmarked by September 15, 2001, and may be mailed or faxed to: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Philip Flax, RCRA Compliance Branch, 290 Broadway, 22nd Floor. New York, New York 10007-1866 (Phone (212)637-4143, Fax (212) 637-4949.)


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