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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, June 20, 2024


May 6, 2003 – The Public Works Department has received U.S. District Court approval to proceed with its proposed variation on the court's March order to repair and maintain the St. Croix sewer system, Sonia Nelthropp, the department's wastewater and solid waste manager, said Monday.
Portions of the plan could go into effect this week, she said.
On March 10, District Judge Thomas K. Moore ordered the V.I. government not to revive a $3.6 million contract it had canceled with Global Resources Management Inc. for "emergency" sewer repairs on St. Croix. The contract was for various repair projects Moore had on Dec. 19, 2001, ordered the government to complete by mid-2002; he subsequently extended the deadline for most of the work to December 2002. The Global contract, signed in December, was to comply with that deadline.
In his lengthy opinion in the case brought by the U.S. Attorney for the Virgin Islands and the U.S. Justice Department, Moore also ordered the V.I. government to find a faster way of repairing system failures, hire a private contractor to operate and maintain pump stations and the sewer collection system, and deposit funds into a special bank account he had ordered set up in December to finance repairs.
According to Nelthropp, Public Works has come up with a way to implement much of what the judge wanted. "In answer to the court order, Public Works has proposed a thorough variation on what they wanted us to do, but we feel it answers the flavor of what they want done," she said in a telephone interview on Monday.
Under the new plan accepted by the court, Nelthropp said, Public Works is seeking an agreement with a group of pre-screened contractors who would be available to respond to sewer emergencies in less than the 36 hours such responses typically take.
On Wednesday, she said, "we will be looking at the qualifications" of those businesses that have submitted proposals, "to select a number of contractors that will be providing us with services on an as-needed basis whenever we have a break." The objective, she said, is to "have a very short turn-around response time on getting the critical problems dealt with."
The contractors also are being asked to help work on four priority repair projects specified in Moore's March order, Nelthropp said. Public Works will use money in the emergency repair bank account to fund the cost of making per diem workers available to its wastewater system operations manager, she said.
Meantime, proceeding with the implementation list, she said, Public Works is in the process of finding a contractor to oversee mandated repairs to three of St. Croix's four major pump stations. "This contractor will help the overall management of finishing those repairs and then do operation of those pump stations for the next 18 months," she said.
Moore on March 10 had given the government 90 days in which to contract such a "qualified independent private contractor."
Addressing the repairs spelled out in Moore's latest order amounts to complying in part with a long list of sewer system mandates for St. Thomas as well as St. Croix. Many of the projects are spelled out in the judge's December 2001 compliance order.
Public Works officials provide regular progress reports to the court on the steps being taken to carry out those orders and demonstrate good faith in cases where there are delays or unexpected events that keep deadlines from being met, Nelthropp said.
Federal involvement with the territory's wastewater system dates back to 1984, when the U.S. and V.I. governments entered into a consent decree. The decree was amended in 1996. Since 2000, Moore has imposed numerous compliance deadlines and, in response to petitions from the V.I. government, has granted numerous extensions.
On Aug. 29, 2000, Moore made site visits to the LBJ and Figtree pump stations, the Anguilla wastewater treatment plant and a collapsed sewage pipe at Castle Burke. On Oct. 18, 2001, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, under threat of contempt of court, appeared before the judge, accepted responsibility for the government's failure to deal with the sewage system and vowed to "micromanage" the matter himself.
Public Works' next progress update is to be issued in June, Nelthropp said.
For more background on Moore's March 10 ruling, see "Judge finds 'reek of politics' in sewage contract".)

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