The territory’s two landfills will both be full by year’s end but, with work, can stay open several more years, allowing the U.S Virgin Islands to meet federal consent decree deadlines for closure, according to Waste Management Authority Executive Director May Adams Cornwall who was speaking to a Senate committee on Monday.
The federal government, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has directed the territory to close the Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas and the Anguilla landfill on St. Croix, in part because both are nearing their capacity.
The current estimated cost to close Bovoni is roughly $21.9 million, with another $2.7 million to cover maintenance, landscaping and other post-closure costs for the next 30 years, Cornwall testified to the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.
"These costs are the liabilities of (closure) and must inevitably be borne by the central government," she said.
At the present rate of waste disposal Bovoni should be full to capacity "by the end of this year," Cornwall said. But with the "construction of a retaining wall to the west,” she said the landfill’s life can be extended to March 2014.
WMA plans to relocate the landfill access road to the east, which will extend the life of the landfill to January 2019 and, with some success in diverting recyclables from the waste stream, it could be extended further, she said. The date in the consent decree to cease waste acceptance at the landfill is April 2019, Cornwall said.
Anguilla is projected to be at capacity by the end of the year too, she said. WMA has requested permission to demolish the old abandoned abattoir "which will extend the landfill life to 2016," she said. The authority is hoping to extend that life with waste diversion, and she said the date in the consent decrees is 2020.
"Notwithstanding, the land lease between VIPA and VIWMA for the St. Croix Transfer Station includes a condition to cease waste acceptance by June 2016," she said.
Meanwhile the cost to close Anguilla is currently estimated at $24.2 million, with another $2.7 million to maintain it for the next 30 years.
Recent bonds included $5 million for Anguilla closure which, according to Cornwall, “is currently being used to produce and place bales of waste to create final landfill slopes in accordance with the EPA-approved landfill closure plan.”
"We have closed the landfill to the public, diverted incoming solid waste to the newly constructed St. Croix Transfer Station, and commenced the production and placement of bales in the landfill," as required by the EPA approved closure plan, she said.
A lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010, alleging the landfills were out of compliance with the Clean Air Act and another federal law, has led to a settlement outlined in two other consent decrees – one for Bovoni and one for Anguilla.
Cornwall testified that each decree requires WMA to pay a $50,000 penalty in installments over the next four years. For Bovoni, the first payment of $12,500 has been paid. The first $12,500 payment for Anguilla will be due on April 11, Cornwall said.
To lessen its reliance on taxpayer funding, later this year WMA will submit a schedule of advance disposal fees to the V.I. Public Services Commission for approval, Cornwall said. The program aims to assess fees on goods when they enter the territory that will pay for their eventual disposal, she said.
That way the authority can pay for disposal without charging tipping fees, which otherwise might encourage people to dump illegally, she said.
No votes were taken at the information gathering hearing.
Committee members present included Sens. Craig Barshinger, Clifford Graham, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Donald Cole, Clarence Payne, Sammuel Sanes and Diane Capehart. Also present were noncommittee members Sens. Judi Buckley, Kenneth Gittens and Terrence "Positive" Nelson.