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TALKING TRASH: Government House Gives Update on 750,000 Cubic Yards of Hurricane Debris

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – “Significant progress continues to be made on the disposal of the massive amount of debris” left in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Government House reported Friday.

To date, about 750,000 cubic yards of tree and plant debris has been picked up across all islands and more than a thousand transformers have been removed from the territory, along with approximately three thousand power poles and almost two million feet of conductor cable.

“The Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands has worked in close cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies to devise and implement a comprehensive, coordinated debris management strategy,” said Eugene Farrell, Chief of Staff for Gov. Kenneth Mapp.

“As is the case in all major disasters of this scale, changing circumstances during the response and recovery phases necessitate modifications to even the best of plans,” he said, adding that policies will continue to be modified based on circumstances.

“We are currently looking at how to dispose of all the construction and demolition debris that will continue to be created as we rebuild,” he said. “This represents a whole new debris stream that we must take into consideration.”

Farrell also noted that there are some isolated pockets of uncollected hurricane debris remaining throughout the Territory. For this and for all questions regarding debris management, residents should call the VIWMA HOTLINE at 1-844-WMA-USVI (1-844-962-8784) or visit their website at www.viwma.org

The following reflects the most updated information on the status of the USVI debris management plan:
  • Marine Debris: 270 salvaged vessels have been demolished and by early April, will have been loaded onto barges and shipped to a final disposition site in Mississippi.
  • WAPA and Telecom Debris: Nearly all Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) debris (poles, transformers, wires) has been picked up, loaded into shipping containers and transported to the Dominican Republic for final disposition. Since there is ongoing power restoration work and VIYA continues to remove its lines from WAPA poles, there will continue to be a small amount of new WAPA debris generated in the short term. To date, 1,363 transformers have been removed, along with 1,943,816 feet of conductor cable and 2,883 poles. The final shipment off‐island is scheduled to take place on March 24, 2018. VIYA is working to move telecommunications lines from abandoned WAPA poles to new WAPA poles and collecting and disposing of all wire and appurtenant components. VIYA estimates completion in the next 60 days.
  • Vegetative Debris: Approximately 750,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris has been picked up across all islands. The Virgin Islands government was responsible for the debris on St. Croix and Water Island, while the Army Corps of Engineers took care of St. Thomas and St. John. The Army Corps of Engineers has been chipping vegetative debris on St. Thomas and St. John and will soon begin reduction on St. Croix. The Army Corps currently has an open request for bids to dispose of vegetative debris off-island. After it was determined that there would be no air curtain incineration, the Governor requested that vegetative debris be chipped and shipped with a small amount set aside for farmers. FEMA is the lead federal agency providing general oversight and coordination of the federal agencies as well as funding.
  • Construction and Demolition (C&D): Approximately 121,000 cubic yards of C&D debris has been picked up on all islands. The Army Corp has been reducing C&D debris on St. Thomas and St. John and will soon begin reduction on St. Croix. The Army Corps has an open request for bids to dispose of all C&D debris off-island. However, as noted, this debris stream is expected to remain significant and grow over the next several months. The Emergency Home Repair Program is responsible for the collection of its own debris stream.
  • White Goods: The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) is the responsible agency for management of white goods. VIWMA is in the process of sending metals to Florida for recycling. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been charged with overseeing the removal of Freon and other hazardous materials from these items. More than 7,372 pieces of white goods were picked up across all four islands.
  • Metals: The government’s contractor continues to process metal debris for shipping and recycling in Florida. Baling was temporarily halted on St. Thomas due to an equipment breakdown and is anticipated to resume next week. Baling of metal for off-island shipment continues on St. Croix and is anticipated to be completed in June 2018.
  • Hazardous Materials: FEMA and the EPA assisted in collecting 5,950 bags of medical waste, 69 pounds of refrigerant, 1,525 propane tanks, 14,464 batteries and other dangerous waste products, which are being removed from the Territory under the EPA’s mission. VIWMA reassumed management of hazardous waste as of March 10.
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John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1989. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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