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Volunteers Needed for Final Round of STX Water Testing; VIPD Prepares for Crucian Christmas Festival

Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. provides updates during a weekly press briefing on Monday. (Photo courtesy of Government House Facebook livestream)

During the last Government House weekly press briefing of the year on Monday, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. shared updates, including news that a final round of testing for lead in St. Croix’s water system has begun. Separately, the V.I. Police Department is preparing for the Crucian Christmas Festival.

The governor expressed optimism about the recent water test results released by the Environmental Protection Agency, which indicated much lower levels of contaminants in the water supply.

Bryan said that with the final round of comprehensive water testing beginning on St. Croix, volunteers are needed to help complete the process at multiple test sites across the island.

Bryan said that if the following water test results align with the results from the EPA, the local State of Emergency will end on Dec. 29. Volunteers with residences connected to the Water and Power Authority water system are asked to partake in the testing.

“We are beginning the final round of surveillance and testing on the water distribution system to ensure everything is OK,” Bryan said. “We were reassured by the EPA testing that was done previously [indicating low levels of lead],” he noted.

“We still want to make sure that everyone remains safe. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources and WAPA have already begun their plan to test samples from 100 sites, 20 of which they have already identified. However, the agencies need to find another 80 homes to sample,” Bryan said. “If you are using the WAPA system, call WAPA and explain that you would like your home tested,” he added.

“We expect that the results [of the final round of testing] will confirm the most recent EPA testing results which demonstrate that the levels of lead and copper are either non-detectable or below the EPA’s [dangerous] level,” Bryan said. “If that is the case, we will not extend the State of Emergency on St. Croix. We do not foresee extending that at all,” he noted.

Bryan reiterated that plans to upgrade the water supply system across the island will continue.

“We are moving rapidly to follow through with all of our efforts to address the corroding lines and the rust-tainted water we have been experiencing,” Bryan stated. “We’ll be cleaning out the pipes and redoing the entire water system on St. Croix. Upgrading and using the corrosion control system and ultimately replacing the iron pipes is our action plan.”

Bryan noted that credits in the amount of $25 per month will be provided for three months to households identified as affected by the water crisis to help offset the money spent by individuals who were asked to flush pipes for extended periods.

Crucian Christmas Safety 

St. Croix District Chief of Police Sean Santos with the Virgin Islands Police Department shared safety information regarding this year’s Crucian Christmas Festival. The festival is scheduled to take place in Frederiksted from Dec. 26 through Jan. 6, and Santos stressed that the VIPD will enforce regulations throughout the event. Individuals will face consequences for crimes, including driving under the influence of substances and illegally firing weapons.

St. Croix District Chief of Police Sean Santos shared updates regarding safety during the Crucian Christmas Festival. (Photo courtesy of Government House Facebook livestream)

“One of our key focuses is not only fun but safety for our community members,” Santos said.

“Our officers will be working toward doing traffic checkpoints and DUI checkpoints. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re out there partying, having fun, and having a great time, we want you to be safe. Always have a designated driver as you go out and enjoy the festivities,” Santos advised.

Santos explained that “celebratory gunfire,” which has occurred in the past on New Year’s Eve, will not be tolerated.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy on celebratory gunfire,” Santos said. “That is a violation as far as Title 14 is concerned, by law. We will be having patrol officers out at night to ensure that if we do catch somebody [engaging in] celebratory gunfire, you will be arrested,” Santos warned.

“Even if you leave shell casings behind, we’re going to pick them up and hopefully do a trace [back to a weapon owner], and you will be arrested as well,” he added.

Additionally, festival vendors are encouraged to check IDs before serving alcohol to attendees.

“Within the festival area or any of the functions happening here in the territory, if you feel unsafe as far as selling alcohol to someone who you may feel is a minor, don’t hesitate to check their IDs,” Santos stated.

Traffic regulations will be enforced, including parking restrictions in Frederiksted and Christiansted. Double parking and parking on sidewalks will not be allowed. Fines will be distributed, and cars may be towed at owners’ expense.

Santos explained that road closures in Frederiksted will occur throughout the festival period, including King Street, Queen Street, and Prince Street.

“Our plans going forward are to have King Street and Prince Street [operating] as one-way streets,” Santos explained. “We will have officers at key locations to aid our motoring public and pedestrian traffic as they go out to enjoy themselves within the Frederiksted town area,” he added.

“We have our mobile command police station, and they will be stationed at the Village site. We’ll have 24-hour surveillance covering the event area, but if you see something, say something,” Santos cautioned.

Residents are encouraged to contact the VIPD with any concerns, and updates will be available on the department’s social media accounts.

Economic Updates 

Bryan shared the news that he recently met with the 35th Legislature of the USVI to share priorities of the administration, urgent needs of the territory, and most importantly, government funding.

“Overall, I am optimistic about our continued collaboration with the Legislature. We had a good conversation,” Bryan explained. “Together, we will work tirelessly to ensure that the territory remains fiscally responsible and prosperous,” Bryan said.

The governor also provided information about retroactive payments and explained that the Finance Department will begin releasing $2.5 million in payments this week.

“We have about 814 checks going out, and we will continue to do this until we [complete payments] for everybody. This is a commitment that I made three years ago to pay at least $25 million back to the employees as retroactive wages that were due for years,” Bryan stated.

Bryan reminded residents that a tax amnesty program will be available through the end of December. As was reported by the Source last week, the amnesty will waive penalties, but not interest, on overdue amounts. More information is available from the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue.

“You can pay your taxes without fees or penalties,” Bryan said.

Accolades for Virgin Islanders

In separate news, Bryan praised several members of the USVI community during his briefing, including eight Virgin Islands students from the “Jobs for America” graduate program. The students attended a National Student Leadership Academy recently in Washington, D.C. Bryan offered a message of support for those involved.

“I want to tell them I am so proud of you,” Bryan exclaimed. “I serve on a national board, and it’s so good when I see Crucians, St. Johnians, and St. Thomians getting to participate,” he added.

Bryan praised educators across the territory, including Charlotte Amalie High School (CAHS) teacher Ms. Chevell Simeon, named teacher of the year for St. Thomas and St. John.

“Today, I’m honored and thrilled to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Ms. Chevell Simeon, an exceptional English literature and composition teacher at CAHS, for being named teacher of the year for St. Thomas and St. John,” Bryan stated.

“Her unwavering dedication to educating and inspiring our youth is a shining example of the commitment and passion that characterizes the best of our educators,” he added.

A Message of Holiday Cheer

Finally, Bryan shared a message of gratitude and cheer during the holiday season, and he thanked participants who had attended the Governor’s Children’s Christmas Parties.

“I would like to say it’s been a great year. It’s been filled with challenges and trials, but for the most part, the people of the Virgin Islands remain blessed,” Bryan said. “It’s a blessed place to live in terms of its beauty and charm and its excellent people,” he added.

“I would like to thank you for your continued support through these trying times, but they are not bad times,” Bryan stated. “We’ve got a lot to look forward to in the new year. So, all the blessings and love from my family to yours, all the protection of God’s grace and peace throughout this holiday season,” Bryan concluded.

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