Sept. 14, 2003 — Sen. Louis P. Hill, chairman of the Senate's Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection, convened a meeting Friday on St. Croix to discuss the status of the Anguilla Landfill closure and the proposed "Bail and Wrap" facility contract.
The public had a right to know why this longstanding problem has not been rectified, Sen. Hill said.
Testifying were Marc A. Biggs, Commissioner, V.I. Property and Procurement Department; Darlin Brin, Executive Director, V. I. Port Authority; Wayne D. Callwood, Commissioner, V.I. Public Works Department; Jim Casey, V.I. coordinator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Caribbean Environmental Protection Division; John Green, solid waste coordinator in Public Works; David Mapp, VIPA and Valmy Thomas, a private citizen.
Brin said he had received correspondence from the U. S. Department of Transportation, FAA District office in Orlando, Fla., relative to the landfill closure. He said the FAA made it clear that the they will take action if the situation is not resolved. In support of his statements he presented to Senators the letter, which read in part:
"The Virgin Islands Port Authority is responsible to correct the compliance deficiency regarding the landfill and until such time that meaningful progress is made, this office will withhold consideration of discretionary funding. If the current lack of progress continues, the FAA will initiate a formal compliance action to withhold funding and may require repayment of grant funds".
Discretionary funds are competitive in nature, Brin explained, and recently have been used to repair a section of the Cyril E. King Airport runway that was damaged by Hurricane Marilyn. The funds were also used for the expansion and completion of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. Brin told the committee the loss of the FAA funding would lead to the decertification of both airports.
Casey underscored that the government is in full compliance with the existing Order on Consent which is dependent on the government's completion of the contract for the "Bail and Wrap" project. According to Casey, the agreement presently in place to close the landfill came about through enforcement initiatives taken by the FAA against the V. I. Port Authority in 1997. He also pointed out that his agency, EPA, is "not a party to the agreement entered into for closure of the existing landfill."
Casey went on to outline an "established history" of noncompliance issues attributed to the local government, including surface fire events, improper handling and disposal of solid waste which presented an "imminent and substantial" endangerment of health and the environment. Additional deficiencies consist of location restrictions, airport safety, failure to implement explosive gases control and failure to monitor levels of contamination.
Despite the government's continued inadequacies, Casey emphasized that it is his agency's desire to work with the local government to rectify the problems, stating, "in light of the common desire to see that management and operations of the landfill are conducted in full compliance with existing regulations, the EPA and FAA maintain communication on the issue."
Casey revealed that the EPA moved to assess stipulated fines against the V.I. government: on one occasion, $143,000, on another, $11,000 and, most recently, $23,200. The agency rescinded these assessed penalties, however, upon condition that the government meets the specified provisions of the Order on Consent.
Biggs gave an update of the proposed contract with Landfill Technologies Incorporated of Puerto Rico for the "Bail and Wrap" that will be located at the Anguilla Landfill. The negotiations for the temporary contract with Landfill Technologies have been ongoing for at least 15 months. "They have submitted their best and final offer," he said, adding that it is up to the government to accept or reject that offer.
"If the current contract is not selected, anther RFP will be issued", Biggs said. If the process starts over, it may take another two years to review bids from other companies.
"This has been a rigorous procurement for the government due to the fact that we are working with two federal agencies," Biggs continued. He said it was a necessary process to ensure all parties — the government, the contractor, and the proposed "Bail and Wrap" facility — would adhere to agreed federal rules and regulations. Although Biggs acknowledged that he is limited as to what he could discuss at the committee hearing until the contract negotiations with Landfill Technologies have been concluded, he said he expects to bring closure to the negotiations in the "very near future."
Six companies submitted Requests For Proposal for the "Bail and Wrap." A team selected by the Governor gave a Notice of Award to Landfill Technologies. The team determined the company to be "best qualified" with the "ability to negotiate cost."
Mapp reported on the recent visit of the FAA to the territory. The federal agency made a site visit to check on the progress of the landfill closure. "They did not leave here with a warm and fuzzy feeling," he said. The federal officials indicated to Mapp they did not feel confident that the government would be able to solve the landfill problem within the given time frame.
Thomas spoke briefly, noting he had sent information on the landfill to the Port Authority and did not get a response.
The senators present were visibly frustrated by the lack of progress on this important issue.
Commenting on the length of time this process has taken, Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd said, "If this matter does not come to a suitable conclusion soon, the possibility of the FAA assuming the operation of our airports looms on the horizon."
Hill, noting that the selection team was hand-picked by the governor, commented, "That is why the community feels this process is politicized."
Sen. Ronald E. Russell questioned whether allowing the government multiple extensions instead of citing them for noncompliance, conforms with the mission of the EPA. He noted that the current situation is affecting the health of the people as well as the environment on St. Croix.
Present at the meeting were committee members Sens. Roosevelt St. C. David, Carlton Dowe, Hill, Liburd, Shawn-Michael Malone, and Russell. Not committee members, but also attending were Sens. Usie R. Richards and Norman Jn Baptiste.
Editor's note: For the many earlier articles on the Anguilla landfill and its present and earlier woes, type the words "Anguilla landfill" in the section search box at top right of the front page screen.
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