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WAPA Still Awaiting Analysis on Weekend Water Samples

 

WAPA head Andy Smith said the utility is actively working to get to the source of lead and copper in pockets of St. Croix’s potable water system. (Screenshot from Government House Livestream)

In a nearly 20-minute press conference Tuesday, officials said they were still awaiting the results of 36 water samples taken on St. Croix late Friday after the V.I. Water and Power Authority began flushing potable water lines identified with high levels of copper and lead.

By way of background, WAPA Executive Director Andy Smith explained that after the territory’s water system was transferred to WAPA in 1988, a lack of data pushed the authority’s officials to seek information from retirees, who said that between 1993 and 1994, WAPA began replacing some of its old copper pipes with PVC, or plastic, ones.

Since then, WAPA has been working to identify those pieces that were not replaced but Smith said that in the meantime, WAPA has also been conducting mandatory compliance testing every three years, per the Environmental Protection Agency. Sampling conducted recently attempted to get to the root of the brown water situation, which has continued to affect St. Croix, and Smith said that two customers were subsequently notified that their water was impacted.

The EPA’s subsequent findings, however, came as a “surprise” to the authority, Smith added Tuesday, noting that many of the 80 samples collected came from areas in which WAPA water had not been used for long periods of time, up to months.

Water sitting stagnant in a system can have that effect, he said, adding that the culprit is believed to be the distribution system and not the water itself, produced by Seven Seas. If the source water was affected, he explained, it would have been found throughout the system rather than contained in pockets.

Resampling was done late Friday and through Saturday, while WAPA also flushed the lines. Results will be coming from labs in Puerto Rico and Florida and will be released to the public upon their return, Smith said.

In the meantime, WAPA supports the “no drinking” advisory still in place for Estates Diamond, Castle Burke, Colquhoun, and Mon Bijou and is in the process of finalizing a plan for the future, which Smith said includes collecting data to see how many residents have been impacted, seeking funds from the EPA to acquire the materials needed for repairs and deciding how to replace service lines affected by the issue.

“Our primary goal is to safeguard the public health and ensure the community has access to safe and clean drinking water,” he said.

 

 

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