April 23, 2004 – People living near Enighed Pond will have to put up with at least some odor until dredging on the commercial port project wraps up in June, the Port Authority's executive director, Darlan Brin, told senators at a Planning and Environmental Protection Committee meeting on Friday.
"We are very sorry for the nuisance we are causing," Brin said as about a dozen people listened during the hearing, held at the Legislature Building in Cruz Bay.
In late February, American Bridge Co. began dredging what was once a salt pond to create the $12.8 million Enighed Pond commercial port. With the dredging came a stench that quickly permeated the neighborhood. The smell was so bad on several occasions that pupils were sent home from the nearby Julius E. Sprauve School.
Chemical treatment is costly
Two weeks ago, the Port Authority began treating the dredging outflow with the chemical compound Terrox. The chemical causes the hydrogen sulfide in the dredged material to sink to the pond bottom rather than be sprayed into the air with the rest of the material.
Brin said the Terrox applications are costing VIPA $1,200 a day.
The Port Authority also is continuing to spray a deodorizer into the air to help reduce the smell. Two sprayers are working at present, Brin said, with four more on the way.
Brin said he thinks the odor will diminish once the Port Authority opens the mouth of the pond to the sea and the pond begins to flush. However, he said, the project permits prohibit opening the mouth until the dredging is done.
The end of the dredging can't come soon enough for Calvin George, who lives across the road from the pond. "I have to pull my blankets up over my face," he said, describing how he copes with the stench.
Sen. Carlton Dowe suggested that the Port Authority put the area residents suffering from the odor up temporarily at the Westin or Caneel Bay resort.
George testified that the odor is just as bad when the dredging is stopped. Brin then said VIPA would try treating the pond water with Terrox during lulls in the dredging.
George also blamed the stench for tarnishing silver jewelry.
No one could say for sure why people's silver does seem to be tarnishing more rapidly than usual. But Craig Barshinger, who spent many years as a marine biologist with the Planning and Natural Resources Department's Fish and Wild Life Division, suggested an oxidizing agent in the deodorizer might be causing the problem.
Barshinger also offered an explanation of why Enighed Pond is giving off a stench. He said that when organic materials break down, substances "that have sulfur in them cause the odor."
DPNR is having tests done in an effort to ensure that the odor doesn't cause long-term health problems. Hollis Griffin, director of the department's Environmental Protection Division, said preliminary tests have found no problems.
Brin said the pond was tested extensively before the commercial port project received various permits. Also, he noted, it was tested before the Public Works Department built a sewage treatment plant nearby.
Meanwhile, he said, the Port Authority is looking at what to do with the dredged material piling up around the pond, which also has an odor.
Work to begin soon on Red Hook marine terminal
Brin also provided an update on the Port Authority's Red Hook marine terminal project.
Work should begin in two months on the $8 million terminal on St. Thomas's East End, he said. He told the senators he foresees major problems because ferry and barge traffic must continue to use the area while the terminal is under construction.
To help alleviate problems, the Port Authority may have to relocate heavy barge traffic to Crown Bay, he said. But concrete mixers and cars would still use barges leaving and returning to Red Hook.
Meanwhile, Brin said, the Port Authority is looking at options for moving commercial traffic permanently to somewhere on the south side of St. Thomas. "It's reached the point where we can't have [both] cargo and passengers at Red Hook," he said.
VIPA also needs to find someplace for vehicles to park while the project is under construction. Brin said one idea was to use the nearby Housing, Parks and Recreation Department land where temporary housing was erected after Hurricane Marilyn, but someone complained that the movement of traffic would threaten the endangered tree boa.
"A guy found one snake," Brin said, referring to the tree boa.
He said the area is hardly in a pristine state, since it was used for the temporary housing, which was demolished after several years.
The Red Hook marin terminal projects calls for shifting the channel southward to provide a straight shot for vessels heading to St. John and to protect turtles that live along the shore. Brin said boats that now moor in that area will have to move.
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