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EPA Superfund Cleanup Of Tutu Wells Site Continues … Despite Fact It Was ‘Finished’ Three Years Ago

EPA contractors drill behind the Curriculum Center. DNS photo by Sean McCoy
DRILLING FOR BOIL: EPA contractors drill behind the Curriculum Center.

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to investigate potential groundwater contamination at the Tutu Wells Superfund Site despite the fact that the site was considered clean three years ago.

Geoffrey Garrison, an on-scene liaison for the EPA in the territory on the project, said this weekend that the investigation continues because of, “a lingering question that we had, a lingering concern.”

The Tutu Wellfield site is located in east-central St. Thomas. It consists of a plume of contaminated groundwater covering an area about 108 acres in size.

Contamination was first detected when a strong petroleum odor from the Tillet Well, a public water supply well for the area, was reported, the EPA said.

An investigation indicated that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were contaminating several public, institutional, commercial and private wells.

Water from some of these wells was transported to other parts of the island. Many contaminated wells, including the Tillet Well, were shut down.

After immediate actions to protect human health and the environment, EPA put the site’s long-term cleanup plan in place.

Treatment and monitoring of contaminated soil and groundwater are ongoing.

The EPA said in April 2013 that it planned to turn the cleanup operation over to the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) — but eventually decided against it.

The Tutu Wellfield Superfund Site is a 1.5 square mile site located on the eastern end of St. Thomas within the upper Turpentine Run surface drainage basin in the Anna’s Retreat area.

It is bounded by steep slopes and surrounding hills and lies slightly east of the city of Charlotte Amalie.

There are two commingled groundwater contamination plumes at the site.  The higher concentration, northern and a higher upstream plume has a source near the Curriculum Center.

EPA Superfund sites are polluted locations requiring long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, known as “Superfund” authorized the EPA to create a list of such locations, which are placed on the National Priorities List (NPL).

CERCLA was passed in 1980 in response to some alarming and completely unacceptable hazardous waste practices and management going on in the 1970s.

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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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