April 14, 2004 – Flowing sewage has been the story of their lives for over 30 years for an elderly St. Croix couple; an advisory this week of yet another overflow from manholes in Mon Bijou is just another chapter.
"I am weary with dealing with this scent in my yard," Mon Bijou resident Margaret Garvey said. She said fecal matter is bubbling up through a manhole adjacent to her four-bedroom home. "I drink lime water everyday, just to stomach it," she said. "I experience vomiting all the time."
She and her husband, both in their 70s, have raised four children and two grandchildren in their home. Garvey said her son suffered adverse reactions for years to the sewage eruptions. "Over the years he missed school," she said, suffering from facial swelling, eyelid closure and nose blowing. She said he now lives on the mainland, where he has minimal problems.
A Planning and Natural Resources Department release issued on Tuesday stated that the Environmental Protection Division was investigating reports of a sewage overflow "from several manholes in the public sewer line in Estate Mon Bijou."
Commissioner Dean Plaskett advised the public to avoid areas around the overflowing manholes, "especially children and adults with compromised immune systems."
Garvey purchased her house in the development of more than a hundred homes in1968. She says she has seen a constant deterioration of the sewage system since 1979.
The current overflow is on the south side of her property, under her bedroom window. "They put up something they called temporary, and it is still that way," she said.
Garvey said she has called every government official she knows over the years with her concerns. She said she is quite familiar with one Public Works employee, because he always comes out to the house after she calls that department.
In a telephone interview Joseph Bradford, Public Works utilities director, said he is very much aware of Garvey's concerns. He said the overflow problem is caused by grease being thrown down kitchen sinks, crumbling and undersized pipelines, and "just an overall aging sewage system that is over 30 years."
Public Works is "drawing up a scope of work right now to replace the chronic areas," Bradford said. The Mon Bijou community was developed with manholes in backyards and "has to be redesigned," he said. "We are just overwhelmed. We lack personnel and the equipment right now."
Chemicals were used over the Easter weekend to break up the grease blockages, Bradford said, and he hopes to have the island's one and only sewage pump truck working within the next three to four days. The truck broke down after being used over the holiday weekend and he is awaiting parts to repair it.
There was a second pump truck on St. Croix, Bradford said, but it's permanently out of commission. But he said a new one has been ordered to meet the demands that seem to increase during holiday periods when a lot of food preparation takes place. "We just received a call today about another break," he said on Wednesday.
The Planning and Natural Resources release issued on Tuesday advises St. Croix residents to call the Environmental Protection Division at 773-1083 regarding water quality concerns. A call to the number brought a referral to the office of Hollis Griffin, environmental protection director, who was unavailable for comment.

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