Feb. 16, 2004 – A towering blue-gray structure at Krum Bay which has been described as a "Colossus of Rhodes" and a "royal pain" is causing a lot of discontent for some Water Island residents and nearby boat liveaboards who wish to sleep through the night.
It is, in fact, a mobile asphalt plant which is manufacturing asphalt for road work on St. John.
Residents who live directly across from Krum Bay are angry. They say they were given no prior notice of the project. "No public announcement was made," said Alex Randall, who, with his wife and five children, is awakened each morning at about 2 a.m.
"I had no idea what it was," Randall said. "At first I thought someone was building a lighthouse, a tourist beacon, another colossus."
While not quite a colossus, the asphalt plant has become a monumental annoyance to many Water Island residents and boat dwellers.
Robin and Jurgen Bitterwolf, who live aboard their sailboat in West Gregerie Channel, say they and all the 30 or so other boat dwellers there are awakened each night by the noise and the lights.
The Krum Bay plant operates in the wee hours of the morning making asphalt, which is then trucked to Coral Bay on St. John. It's being used for a federal-local road project which, according to several sources, should be completed soon.
The plant sits on property leased by the Property and Procurement Department to St. Thomas Ready Mix Inc. In a June 9 letter to Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett, Dwane A. Benjamin, DPRN director of property, recommended approval of the permit, noting that tenants may sublease. The V.I. Paving equipment on the site is "within the terms and tenancy of the tenancy agreement," Benjamin said. The letter also states that "being there are no immediate tenants in the vicinity, the impact to businesses in the area is non-existent."
The plant operates under minor Coastal Zone Management permit CZT-36-03L, issued to Asphalt and Concrete Industries Inc. for the construction of a concrete slab for a silo to be used as part of a mobile concrete-mix plant.
Since the equipment is mobile, a major permit was not necessary, Algem Petersen, CZM environmental specialist, said.
The permit application was submitted May 22, 2003, and was signed last Aug. 21 by company president Richard Shierloh and by DPNR Assistant Commissioner Claudette Lewis for Plaskett.
The plant began its middle-of-the-night operations late last year and, according to a company spokesman, will complete the work in about a month and a half. Shierloh confirmed that his company is doing the work; however, after that initial conversation, he did not return multiple calls for comment.
A spokesman for the company, who declined to be named, corroborated that the work should be complete in a month and a half. He was reluctant to give further details about the project, referring them to Shierloh. It is unfortunate that the work has to be done in the "early morning," he said, but that is the only conceivable time to load the trucks and get them to the work site on St. John.
Petersen said she made a site visit last week. The generator needs to be on in the early hours to process the liquid asphalt from St. Croix with the dry material, she said. She said the mixing process takes about two hours, and after that, the generator "is off for the day." She said she spoke to the owners about trying to change the bulbs in the lamps to "keep the glare away from Water Island."
Although hearings are sometimes held on minor permits, it is not a requirement, as with a major permit.
The residents say they are used to the racket created by the Water and Power Authority, which has its major generating equipment in Krum Bay.
However, the asphalt plant is an entirely different story. "When that thing [the generator] fires up, it's noisy — it's a wrenching, grinding, stone-crushing noise," Randall said. "The first couple nights, I thought it was WAPA."
He added: "It's hard to imagine how they would do this without consulting the Water Island residents. The lights, they are the brightest things on the horizon. I'm curious to know why it requires so much illumination. It irritates everybody on the south side of Krum Bay."
While not citing any specific complaints, Leonard Reed, DPNR assistant director of environmental protection, confirmed last week that he was aware of the issue. "We have had some meetings on regulatory concerns having to do with certain deadlines," he said.
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