March 10, 2003 – Despite being passed over by the government to provide a short-term solution to the island's trash problems, the new owners of the old St. Croix Alumina site on the South Shore are optimistic about the 1,200-acre property's potential uses.
Already St. Croix Renaissance Group, the company that bought the land, is producing potable water and selling it to local haulers and has a machine shop that services equipment from Hovensa and other businesses.
Mary Ann Mahoney, St. Croix Renaissance spokeswoman, led a tour Saturday morning of about 50 St. Croix Environmental Association members and others through what's now called Renaissance Park, giving an overview of the owners' ideas for the future.
The site could be suitable for such ventures as a commercial fishing port, homeport for cruise ships, marina, shipyard, storage area and dry dock, she said. It also has a power plant capable of producing up to 85 megawatts of power and 2 million gallons of potable water at a cost considerably less than what the local utility can provide.
St. Croix Renaissance purchased the land as a prime location for its proposal to bale and wrap the island's 200 tons a day of trash until the government develops a permanent solution to the problem.
The Federal Aviation Administration has demanded that the territory close the Anguilla landfill because of its proximity to Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, citing hazards posed to planes by foraging birds and dogs and by fires at the dump.
Mahoney said the Renaissance Group could have carried out its plan for less than half the $13 million start-up cost plus $5 million a year thereafter quoted by the successful bidder for the contract, Landfill Technologies Corp. of Puerto Rico.
Landfill Technologies intends to bale and wrap trash and store it in aboveground buildings at the Anguilla site after the dump is remediated and closed. But recent reports indicate that the government is falling behind on its self-imposed deadlines to get the project started, and contract negotiations with Landfill Technologies have yet to begin.
"When the Department of Public Works said the deadline [for closing Anguilla] was December 2002, we thought the deadline was December 2002," Mahoney sarcastically told the tour takers on Saturday. "We have an interim solution that was economically and environmentally sound and tested" that could have been completed well within the timelines of the FAA, she said.
Renaissance would have invoiced the government based on the per-ton amount of trash trucked to the site, rather than charging for the purchase and installation of equipment at the collection area, Mahoney said.
She added that the specifics of the Landfill Technologies plan have not been made public, and no public input concerning the contract was allowed.
But plans for Renaissance Park are moving forward nonetheless, Mahoney said. "There's much more to the site than a good location for garbage," she said.
Fuel mix means cheaper water and power
The main focus right now, Renaissance co-owner Patrick Mahoney, husband of Mary Ann Mahoney, said on Tuesday, is evaluating the power-generation and water-production capabilities.
The power plant runs on fuel oil or coal to generate electricity, and can do so at a much cheaper rate than the Water and Power Authority, according to Zac Zacharis, the powerhouse manager. WAPA, burning oil, charges 16 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, which is one of the highest rates in the Caribbean, he said on Saturday, and the average in other parts of the Caribbean is 12 to 13 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Zacharis said coal-powered electricity costs 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Patrick Mahoney said St. Croix Renaissance could produce power for 7 to 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on the mixture of coal and oil.
"If we're running at full capacity, we're the cheapest source in the Caribbean," he said. "The attractiveness in this for incoming businesses is that somebody could cut their power costs in half in an energy-intensive industry."
The Renaissance Group is a partnership of Boston-based Brownfields Recovery Corp., EnergyAnswers Corp. of Puerto Rico, and Myron Allick, a Crucian who is the group's vice president for project development. Patrick Mahoney also is president of EnergyAnswers and its parent company on the mainland.
Brownfields was co-founded in 1996 by David Mugar, principal owner of Starfish Market on St. John, where Allick was general manager until last year. The company was created to acquire, remediate and redevelop environmentally impacted properties.
According to information provided last year, EnergyAnswers is involved in setting up a resource-recovery facility in Puerto Rico that can process 2,000 tons of waste a day. According to Patrick Mahoney, it specializes in "resource recovery of buildings and wastewater." He said then that EnergyAnswers had been managing the Anguilla wastewater treatment facility on St. Croix since October of 2001 and also was operating such a facility on St. John.
For more background on St. Croix Renaissance, see "Energy-related future touted for alumina site".
'Red mud' could be recycled into brick
For people familiar with the area, it is difficult to imagine the giant steel structures and nearby pile of bauxite residue, or "red mud," as anything but an eyesore. But not so, Renaissance officials say.
Patrick Mahoney said there are ways to use the bauxite for industrial purposes. For one, it could be reconstituted to make brick. The red mud piles visible from the Melvin Evans Highway will eventually be graded and landscaped, he said.
Mary Ann Mahoney said the property could be cleaned up and developed to create a homeport for cruise ships with a golf course, recreational sportfishing, trails through historic ruins on the property and taxi service to shopping areas. "It doesn't seem possible, but it could be beautiful," she said.
Early discussions with cruise ship officials are promising, Patrick Mahoney said. "We told them what we had to offer, and the answer was a resounding 'Yes!' They said, 'We would be very interested in talking with you if you had those things.'"
He said waste recovery activity is what attracted the local company, also a subsidiary of EnergyAnswers, to the St. Croix Alumina site. "We evaluated it very very thoroughly," he said.
The chances of attracting a major company to the area are great, he said, and discussions are ongoing with several businesses. He declined to name the companies while negotiations are in progress.
"Our success doesn't depend on getting the waste contract," he said. "The outlook for the future is great."

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