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Health Officials Investigating Sewage In Cafeteria At Ricardo Richards Elementary

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CHRISTIANSTED — Virgin Islands Education and Health officials are grappling with sewage problems at two schools on St. Croix that led to earlier dismissals of students this week.

The Department of Health said it received telephone calls on  Monday morning, March 6th at about 8:15 a.m. from the Department of Education asking what they should do about the issues.

The Department of Health Inspector on duty immediately responded to the Ricardo Richards Elementary School Campus in Estate Barren Spot.

Meanwhile, the Elena Christian Junior High School in Estate La Grande Princess also sent students home early on Tuesday to investigate a possible sewage problem after foul odors were reported.

Education Commissioner Dr. Sharon McCollum declined to be interviewed for this report. She was not available for comment despite repeated requests.

Upon arrival, the health department  inspector observed evidence of sewage (via the odor) in the cafeteria area, which was vacant and had been cleaned at the time.

The health inspector immediately begain directing confused Education officials as to restricting the use and access to the affected area and asked school officials for a plan of action to secure the safety of the students and employees.

School officials proposed the utilization of the Ricardo Richards library as a temporary solution. DOH Inspector inspected the library and instructed school officials of the steps necessary to utilize the space for the children to use as an eating facility.

School officials complied with Hendricks instructions and food was safely served in the library. All food for the lunch program was to be prepared on another campus until the sewage problem was rectified completely.

This morning, DOH Inspectors revisited the school to assess the progress and observe that all Department of Health mandates were met and continuing to be maintained.

Upon inspection it was revealed that the sewage issue had been rectified and the area had been cleaned.

The kitchen area was also re-inspected for proper facilitation and health standards for serving the students and safe working conditions for employees.

The Department of Health authorized the use of the cafeteria for serving the students today despite the misgivings of numerous parents who contacted the Virgin Islands Free Press last night to complain about a lax government response from Education Department officials.

Ricardo Richards Elementary officials also reported a sewage problem at the school in mid-September of last year, but Education officials did not send students home early despite the presence of foul odors inside the facility.

Sharon McCollum

Education’s  Sharon McCollum

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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