After three years of negotiations, voluminous documentation and numerous site visits, FEMA has provided official notification approving the replacement of the entire wastewater system on the island of St. Croix with a projected cost of $1.5 to $2 billion, the V.I. Waste Management Authority announced Monday.
Considering the condition, age and deterioration of wastewater facilities and components since the storms, as well as the necessary upgrades to meet industry requirements, FEMA has determined that all 14 sewersheds are eligible for replacement, the agency stated in a news release.
This notification acknowledges the indisputable impact of the last 10 hurricanes, which has left the island’s system in ominous disrepair and highly susceptible to future damage, according to the release. The environmental costs of sewage overflows and recurring repairs place an overwhelming burden on the authority and the territory.
“This is a huge win for St. Croix and the territory. Prudent replacement will allow the authority to rebuild its aging wastewater infrastructure in accordance with current industry standards and continue its mission of providing quality wastewater services,” said Roger Merritt, executive director of the authority. “Special thanks to the hardworking team at VIWMA and Office of Disaster Recovery, as well as other local and federal partners and consultants who worked tirelessly to ensure the funding for this massive project became a reality.”
Engineers from the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority, Witt O’ Brien’s and FEMA personnel are working to develop the scope of work for the project, according to the news release.
Once the cost for the first sewershed is approved, the scope will be used to create the remaining segments of the project. The next step in the process is the obligation of the funds needed to initiate the solicitation for a contractor to perform the work.
“Coming off the heels of the FEMA Summit held about a month ago, this approval is a result of coordination and collaboration by local and federal agencies,” said Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, director of the Office of Disaster Recovery.
“FEMA is making good on promises made to the territory. The Office of Disaster Recovery recognizes and applauds the partnership and support from Governor Bryan, Delegate Plaskett, Witt O’Brien’s and FEMA leadership. This determination comes at a critical time as the Territory is planning and designing underground and other critical infrastructure projects in both districts,” Williams-Octalien said in the news release.
The approval will be used as the blueprint for wastewater replacement requests for St. Thomas and St. John, as well as the potable water system replacement requests to FEMA, the news release stated. The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority and the Office of Disaster Recovery will continue working jointly with FEMA to address wastewater system damage across the territory, it said.