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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, December 1, 2023


It may be difficult for most Virgin Islanders to accept the fact that the
"Mangrove Lagoon was once a thriving ecosystem, characterized by clear water, thriving mangrove stands, and luxuriant grass beds." But it is a fact!
I remember family outings there in the early 60s when we floated on inflated inner tubes up and down the mangrove-lined channels of the southwest segment of the lagoon. The water was clear. Through our snorkel masks we could see the oysters clinging to the underwater prop roots, schools of small fish and many intriguing invertebrates.
"Today the ecosystem is under stress caused by sewage from boats, non-point source pollution from the watershed and along the water front, sedimentation, nutrient-rich discharges from Turpentine Run and partially treated effluent from the Nadir Wastewater Treatment Plant."
The quotes are taken from the Environmental Assessment Report (EAR) for the
Mangrove Lagoon/Turpentine Run Regional Wastewater Treatment Facilities, CZT- 7-97L&W. The EAR was prepared by Parsons Engineering Science of Austin, Texas, for the V. I. Department of Public Works.
There are three components to the proposed wastewater treatment system, which will replace the five package plants at Old Tutu, New Tutu, Donoe, Bovoni, and Nadir.
— a gravity-flow wastewater collection system (the Turpentine Run portion) which will include a lift station at the mangrove edge in Nadir.
– a wastewater treatment plant on government land at Bovoni, south of the landfill.
– an overland and ocean outfall system to carry the secondary treated effluent to a point 5,300 feet off Stalley Bay, with diffusion about 2,000 feet west of Packet Rock.
There are many potential environmental impacts, among them the loss of trees along Turpentine Run, the disruption of wetland vegetation in the lift station area, and destruction of some sea grass along the ocean outfall route.
Also of real concern are the questions of who will manage the treatment plant, will the system be monitored efficiently, and how will the Virgin Islands meet the bill. The total cost of construction is estimated at $26 million, of which $16 million is the responsibility of the Government of the Virgin Islands.
However, if all goes well, we will have clearer water in the Lagoon, and we can expect at least some recovery of the stressed ecosystems there. Then too, I am sure none of us will miss the flow of untreated sewage down Turpentine Run!
The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on June 8 in the Conference Room of the Legislature Building. Another CZM application, CZT-2-97L&W for the Ritz- Carlton Hotel expansion will also be heard.
Editors' note: Helen W. Gjessing is a retired biology professor.

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