In conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) has stood up an Emergency Support Function 10 (ESF 10) command post on St. Thomas with the mission of overseeing the assessment, mitigation and removal of hazardous substances and vessels from the U.S. Virgin Islands ports and waterways in the aftermath of recent hurricanes.
Currently, response teams are in the field conducting assessments of the ports and waterways and mitigating pollution in the maritime environment. ESF 10 is the framework by which federal support is coordinated with the state and territory agencies in response to actual or potential oil spills or hazardous material releases, according to DPNR.
“Our main objective is to establish a vessel identification strategy and remove damaged vessels from the harbors, waterways and shorelines of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Howard Forbes, director of the DPNR’s Environmental Enforcement Division.
During these assessments, a higher priority will be placed on vessels found to be actively leaking pollution. As teams locate emergent pollution situations, immediate action will be taken to contain the pollution and remove it from the environment.
DPNR officials are working to contact owners to coordinate a salvage plan for damaged vessels.
It is important that vessel owners communicate with DPNR within 30 days to avoid their vessels being removed and destroyed as part of the U.S.V.I. debris removal process. Notices are being placed on damaged vessels by assessment teams requesting those owners contact USVIDPNR@gmail.com. We will also attempt to contact vessel owners using direct contact email, phones and other means.
With your cooperation, we will be able to protect and restore the harbors, waterways and shorelines of the territory safely and in a timely manner.