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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, April 15, 2024


Some sixty Virgin Islanders spent Wednesday and Thursday studying the various aspects of nonpoint source pollution at the Fifth Annual VI Conference held at Palm Court on St. Thomas. Nonpoint source pollution is the cumulative effect of many happenings, all of which contribute to a general degradation of the environment, especially the coastal marine environment so important to the Virgin Islands community and its tourist industry.
The first day found Dr. Laverne Ragster of the University of the Virgin Islands discussing the general overview, Jim Casey of the federal Environmental Protection Agency speaking to the latest "President's Clean Water Action Plan," and Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg speaking to the Legislature's responsibility for environmental protection. Speaking to the toxic discharge of several sewage plants including the Mangrove Lagoon plant at Nadir, Donastorg was "convinced that private operators will run these (sewage) plants more efficiently." This has been tried which is one reason these highly inefficient plants have not been replaced by the efficient single plant proposed by the EPA in 1984.
After a day and a half of scientific discussion concerning the various aspects of salt pond sediment traps, agricultural pollution, erosion and particulate damage, and sewerage contamination; the group left the conference facility for the field. This gave the participants the opportunity to see, smell and touch actual projects designed to limit nonpoint source pollution.
Bill McComb led the study of erosion mitigation and sewage package treatment at the Caret Bay Villas. This development of eight units includes six duplex townhouses, and two houses. Each unit has a pool and the entire complex is built on the cliffs at the end of the Carol Bay road. Massive boulders and lesser rocks were used for dry walls along the roadways. Major drainage from the main road was sent through the property in concrete control lanes ending in natural guts with silt ponds. Exposed areas were matted with "silk mat" and planted in grass. The development's sewage has been collected at a low point where it passes through a series of grinders and is pumped to a package plant on the high end of the property. The 24 x 8 x 4 foot fiberglass tank has some 16 linear feet of four foot diameter disks which constantly move the effluent while it is being digested by natural organisms. The liquid product is filtered, chlorinated and sent to a gray water tank for use as irrigation water. The plant is rated to 6,000 gallons of sewerage per day and is driven by a single electric motor with generator backup.
The second stop on the trip was architect Brian Emerich's home in Harmony Estates. Emerich purchased an older home on the top of the hill built on almost solid rock. He took the existing septic tank and designed a series of concrete troughs down the hillside. The troughs are filled with a mix of stone, gravel, sand and soil. The effluent from the tank moves through the troughs under the surface planted in flowers, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. In the future, Emerich plans to include a final trough of telapia fish. While the family consumes all the tomatoes, many of the peppers are traded for other vegetables. The system costs the same as a traditional tank and drainage field if done properly, is almost maintenance free, and produces products for use in the home.
Donna Griffith from the Division of Fish and Wildlife hosted the final stop at the Red Hook salt pond. According to the "Shoreline Guide to the U.S. Virgin Islands" published by the DFW which is a division Department of Planning and Natural Resources, there are some 15 remaining salt ponds on the island of St. Thomas. This includes the pond dammed by Zinky Smith in the sixties behind Bluebead's Beach and the Benner Bay pond choked off by Independent Boatyard which are no longer able to recharge from the sea, and the Red Hook pond which the Port Authority wants to develop commercially. The group was able to see the effect of the pond filtering out the runoff particulates and providing the bases for the grass beds on the seaside. According to wild life professionals, these ponds are the primary "link in the chain of life around our islands and the loss of but one habitat can cause the chain to break apart and the health and viability of our marine and coastal ecosystems to collapse."

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