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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Lower Levels of Lead Found in STX Water; Tax Amnesty and Wage Compensation Programs Announced

Government House Director of Communications Richard Motta Jr. provides updates during a weekly press briefing on Monday. (Photo courtesy of V.I. Government House live stream)

Information recently released by the Environmental Protection Agency indicated that follow-up sequential water tests had found significantly lower lead levels in St. Croix’s water supply. The local State of Emergency may expire on Dec. 29, pending a final round of testing.

“The sequential testing failed to replicate the extremely high levels of lead and copper that were initially identified during the EPA’s testing conducted in September,” said Director of Communications Richard Motta Jr. during the weekly Government House press briefing on Monday.

The EPA noted that in its follow-up sequential tests of 119 water testing sites, three were identified where lead was present and exceeded safe levels. However, the source of the lead at the three locations is currently not believed to be a system-wide problem. Two of the three locations have been attributed to plumbing issues at individual residences. The third location was determined to have contained water that had been sitting stagnant for an extended time.

EPA’s preliminary test samples, which were meant to evaluate red and brown water, were conducted in September and deviated from typical testing protocols. Motta explained that the inaccurate process resulted in elevated readings of contaminants in the water.

“The reason for this stark difference [between the results of EPA’s preliminary tests and the results of the subsequent testing] is directly related to a flaw in the way the samples were collected in September,” Motta stated. “In fact, none of the positive results were attributed directly to WAPA’s water distribution system,” Motta continued.

“As a result of this information, the EPA has acknowledged that the potential danger related to the presence of lead and copper in the water system is not as significant as originally thought,” he concluded.

A final round of water testing will determine if the water quality is safe for residents of St. Croix. The testing results may allow for the expiration of a local State of Emergency on Dec. 29 and permit residents to drink water safely from the tap.

“To confirm these results, and in an abundance of caution, we are going to embark on a final round of surveillance testing,” Motta stated. “If this affirms the most recent EPA data, which was published in the most recent report, we will lift the “No Drink Advisory,” Motta explained.

“Altogether, the data that we are receiving and the strategic efforts in place potentially put us on a path to end the State of Emergency later this month,” he added.

Efforts to help educate the public about lead exposure will continue, and pediatric blood tests for lead will remain available from the V.I. Health Department. Motta noted that plans to update St. Croix’s water distribution system will ultimately benefit the island by providing clean water to residents.

“Not only will this alleviate any concerns regarding lead and copper entering the water system, but perhaps most importantly, it will address the rust-tainted water that has plagued large parts of our community for several years,” Motta said.

The DOH was absent during Monday’s press briefing. However, individuals with any concerns related to lead exposure can contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. For information regarding testing for lead, the DOH hotlines can be reached Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 340-712-6299 and 340-776-1519.

Tax Amnesty and Wage Compensation Programs  

In other news, Motta provided information about tax and economic incentives that may benefit some individuals across the territory. Updates were shared about a tax amnesty opportunity, which will be available through the end of the year, as well as information about retroactive wage compensation programs for survivors of government employees.

“The Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue has announced a tax amnesty program effective immediately and lasting through the end of December,” Motta explained. “The amnesty will be granted to individuals in arrears for any payments due for income tax or gross receipts tax,” Motta noted.

To qualify for amnesty, individuals need to have filed taxes for 2022 with the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

“This amnesty program offers a unique opportunity for those in arrears to catch up on their payments. Importantly, the amnesty will waive penalties, but not interest, on overdue amounts,” Motta said.

Additionally, details were shared regarding survivors of employees of the Government of the Virgin Islands who may be entitled to wage compensation.

“The Division of Personnel is accepting wage compensation claims from survivors of eligible, active, separated, or retired employees. Survivors are encouraged to initiate the claim process [which began on Dec. 6],” Motta stated. “All claims must be submitted by May 31, 2024.”

“If you are a survivor of a Government of the Virgin Islands employee and believe that you are entitled to a survivor claim, the Division of Personnel asks that you visit their website,” Motta said.

Events Across the Islands

Residents across the V.I. are encouraged to attend the “Governor’s Children’s Christmas Parties,” which will occur on St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix beginning on St. John later this week. The Christmas celebrations will include gifts, which will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for children ages newborn to 12, and children must be present to receive a gift. Information about the times and locations of the Christmas Parties is available on the V.I. Government’s official Facebook page.

“Make sure you bring your children out and enjoy the festivities,” Motta said. “Santa will be there, and there will be lots of prizes, gifts, and giveaways,” he added.

Finally, the Office of Gun Violence Prevention will hold a basketball tournament on Dec. 16 at 12 p.m. at the Educational Complex on St. Croix to help encourage community competition through sports, not violence. The winning team will receive a cash prize of $2,000.

“Fourteen neighborhood teams from all around St. Croix will be participating, as well as a team from the Virgin Islands Police Department and one from the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services,” Motta stated.

For additional information, individuals can contact Damian Lang at the Office of Gun Violence Prevention at 340-244-6930.

 

 

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