Virgin Islands Free Press

Mapp-Potter Administration Goes Forward With ‘Test Burn’ On The South Shore of St. Croix Over Objections Of Environmentalists, Senators

CHRISTIANSTED — The Virgin Islands Free Press has confirmed that the local government conducted a “test burn” on the South Shore of St. Croix Wednesday.

The test burn took place for at least two hours and maybe longer, the V.I. Free Press has learned.

Yet Patrick Loch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proclaimed in a video tweet recently that all three million cubic yards of vegetative hurricane debris in Puerto Rico will be composted and mulched.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp has told the public that there is too much debris and that is will take too long, that a portion must be dealt with through burning.

Mapp told the Government House spokespiece newspaper, that the burn had been canceled and would take place next week. That is not true — the test burn has already taken place, over widespread objections from the public.

But the lowly St. Kitt’s owned newspaper swallowed the propaganda from Government House hook, line and sinker — and printed a story to that effect.

There seems to be a double standard, especially given the fact that vegetative debris in the USVI is 1/5th the volume.

Within the video, Loch says: “Despite the challenges in removing more than 3 million cubic yards of debris from the island, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is undeterred, prepared to stay with the people of Puerto Rico until the job is complete.”

Below is Loch’s tweet with a link to the video. NBC New York did a similar story last evening, that clip is below as well.

12/5/17, 10:48 AM

Throughout #PuertoRico, a massive operation to remove more than 3 million cubic yards of debris churns on. Just outside of Ponce, the Recovery Field Office has established a bustling collection site in the El Tuque Quarry to collect vegetation, or veg, debris. ?: Patrick Loch pic.twitter.com/kQJTCR2bMd

NBC New York December 13 coverage:  https://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Puerto-Rico-Turning-Maria-Debris-Into-Maria_New-York-464008853.html

FEMA and the Army Corps must explain why people in the USVI do not deserve the same protections as those in Puerto Rico where burns are not taking place.

The burning of vegetative debris through air curtain incineration is hazardous to people’s health and to the environment. There are no pollution controls, in fact incinerators generate pollution.

Particulate matter and other air pollutants are emitted directly into communities near the incinerators. Burning wood in a hot and humid environment is especially worrisome as humidity will trap the pollution, not allowing it to dissipate.

Also of special concern are poisonous trees such as the Manchineel tree, which is extremely toxic when burned. This wood has not been separated out. A letter from environmental health experts detailing dangers is here:  http://islandgreenliving.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Expert-Letter-to-Senator-Jackson.pdf

USVI senators passed a “Ban the Burn” bill introduced by Senate President Myron D. Jackson by a margin of 10-3 on December 1, making burning in the territory illegal, but Governor Mapp has vowed not to sign it. FEMA has announced immediate plans to burn upwards of 35 percent of the 600,000 cubic yards of debris via air curtain incineration on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

This despite a comprehensive Debris Management Plan created by local and state-side experts on how to handle composting and mulching in the territory. There are proposals from qualified companies in hand, ready to begin the process. (http://islandgreenliving.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Debris-Management-Plan-.pdf) The USVI Senate will be meeting on December 21 and may be voting on overriding Governor Mapp’s veto. There is still time to change course to a comprehensive composting, mulching and hard wood preservation program in the USVI.

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