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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 13, 2024


While the Public Works Department has repaired a sewer line break that had closed beaches in Frederiksted for two weeks, a larger discharge on the south shore continues.
According to Public Works’ Acting Commissioner Wayne Callwood, the ruptured sewer line that forced the closure of the west end shore from Fort Frederik Beach to Rainbow Beach was fixed on Tuesday. Callwood, however, recommended that swimmers stay out of the sea in those areas until the Department of Planning and Natural Resources conducts tests of the water.
A much larger discharge from the Figtree Pump Station just east of the HOVENSA refinery is continuing. The Figtree station shut down about a month ago due to electrical problems and has been spewing about two million gallons a day of raw sewage into Cane Garden Bay since. The discharge has caused officials to issue warnings about swimming in the waters off popular Ha’Penny Beach.
Two of three pumps were out of order or being repaired when a failure of electronic equipment for what was then the station’s lone working pump caused the discharge to begin on Aug. 29. According to Public Works officials, the needed part for the third pump hasn’t arrived from England.
In the meantime, Public Works is working to put in place a diesel auxiliary pump to move sewage past the disabled pump station on to St. Croix’s wastewater treatment plant. However, the department hasn’t been able to secure a contractor to excavate the sewer line outside of the pump station in order to install the pump.
No timeline has been given regarding the completion of repairs at the station.
The Figtree station is supposed to be outfitted with three pumps to ensure backup capacity if one of the pumps fails. But Public Works has only managed to get one online to run the station. If the sole pump breaks down, as it did last month, sewage is bypassed into the sea.
Many of the territory’s wastewater treatment problems predate 1984, when the territorial and federal governments entered into a consent decree. Problems were again addressed in a 1996 amendment to the consent decree. Because of the ongoing illegal discharges on St. Croix, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Moore issued an order in February setting specific deadlines for Public Works to make repairs. He then filed a subsequent order — and issued contempt threats against the government — in late May for specific repairs to be made by June 30.
Because the wastewater treatment plant hasn’t met minimum discharge requirements set forth in the consent decree, Public Works must now hire a private contractor to operate the plant until it has run for six consecutive months without a discharge violation.

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