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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, April 13, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesReal Solutions Exist for St. Croix Sewage

Real Solutions Exist for St. Croix Sewage

Dear Source,
Recently, we have been able to learn about "wetlands treatment" for our failing sewage treatment plant. In an organized attempt to win a multi-million dollar contract, the company that designs and operates this wetlands system has seen fit to use some local interest groups — St. Croix Environmental Association among them — to move the focus from primary treatment of waste to their product. In doing this, certain information is never discussed or seemingly is misunderstood.
The sewage treatment plant at Anquilla has never passed an EPA certified test at an EPA certified laboratory. That means that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, contaminated sewage effluent is poured into the sea. This is the reason I call the V.I. government the largest polluter on St. Croix.
For any secondary wastewater treatment plan to be effective, the primary treatment plant at Anquilla must be replaced with a new, up-to-date treatment plant that can pass EPA requirements. This sewage treatment plant does not have to be located at the Anquilla site. In fact, St. Croix would be better served by multiple treatment plants in different locations.
St. Thomas currently has a new, state-of-the-art plant and testing laboratory in operation, with a second plant under construction and a third in the permit process, with five more to come.
Why does St. Croix have only one plant that does not work? Why can't St. Croix have better sewage treatment service? Why can't St. Croix have more than one treatment plant? Why does St. Croix always seem to be second in line?
Understand this about a sewage treatment plant: It takes raw sewage and the water used to move it, breaks it down and separates the solids from the liquids, and cleans this wastewater into a usable product by eliminating dangerous bacteria and pathogens while further reducing the solids. A properly working primary treatment plant with a secondary treatment that further reduces these solids into a usable form will benefit many, especially agriculture, with fertilizer and safe water for irrigation. Locate this plant on or next to farmland, and many problems are solved while giving farmers the helping hand they greatly need.
Put one treatment plant in Fredericksted, one in center-island for agriculture and one in Christiansted. Long sewage pump lines or lifts will be eliminated, thereby taking some of the pressure off the decaying pipe system. This would place St. Croix in a better position to deal with the future of increasing demands on its infrastructure, while providing a healthier climate for all.
Currently, hotel and golf course properties such as Carambola, The Buccaneer and The Reef Condominiums provide usable wastewater from their treatment plants to irrigate their land in a safe, efficient manner. While not being able to further reduce the solids into fertilizer, they also would benefit from a secondary treatment plant by trucking over their solids for further treatment.
Here's the kicker! This kind of secondary treatment was once available on St. Croix but was laid to waste by our pal Hugo, never to be replaced by monies provided by our next best friend, at the time, FEMA.
So, ask the question: Why do we need these wetlands treatments if a primary sewage treatment plant is working properly? The answer is for a backup system where there is a possibility of an overflow leading to the sea. In fact, such a system exists on St. Croix, thanks to the diligence of a Port Authority engineer who designed a wetlands grass system at the overflow ponds that contain rainwater runoffs from our airport. This system effectively filters the rainwater runoff before it enters the sea.
While this is a simplified layman's guide to our current situation, it magnifies the need for multiple, modern primary treatment plants on St. Croix, along with a secondary treatment plant for solids and wetlands treatment as a barrier for overflow contamination. Using a wetlands system for treatment of sewage would be a very large undertaking using acres of land, not to mention the smell of naturally decaying waste in the great outdoors. Wetlands systems in use today are located in remote areas, away from the general population. Also consider that these wetlands are an attraction for wildlife, and putting one near an airport would attract more birds, which are a major concern of aviation. We should be closing down, cleaning up and relocating the landfill and sewage treatment plant from Anquilla, thereby satisfying federal requirements that were mandated years ago.
I think that organizations such as SEA can better serve the population by allowing improvements to move forward, and not impeding progress. We must have an up-to-date infrastructure in place before we can fine tune it with alternate technologies.
How about instituting a recycling program that will separate the trash going to our overburdened landfill? We can separate glass, plastic and papers for a start. Crush the glass, compress the plastic and burn the paper to lessen the load on our future landfill. Tortola recently added an incinerator for a low price from a Texas firm: Why can’t we? Florida uses crushed glass in the paving asphalt, and ash from paper products would help the landfill.
Solutions do not have to be difficult.
Steve Nisky
St. Croix
Editors note:We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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