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Wastewater Treatment Company Says It Hasn’t Been Paid By Government in 1.5 Years

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The company that manages the territory’s two wastewater treatment plants says they are calling it quits here after the V.I. Waste Management Authority failed to pay them $5.6 million owed.

Veolia Water North American Caribbean, has operated wastewater treatment plants on St. Thomas and St. Croix since 2004, said it “is preparing to withdraw from operations due to the fact that the U.S. Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority is in arrears by more than $5 million in outstanding payments dating back close to 19 months.”

Veolia Water said such a withdrawal could lead to job reductions while violating terms of the federal consent decree which requires a third-party operator.

“We are reluctant to make this decision, as we believe it could risk harming the region’s water supply and marine resources,” said Veolia Water spokesman Matthew Burgard.

Veolia Water said it has tried to get VIWMA to make “an alternative arrangement, including extended payment plans or even a possible Congressional waiver,” but so far has been rebuffed in its efforts.

“Without the technical operations expertise provided by Veolia, the sizable investment in the two plants (approximately $53 million in Environmental Protection Agency-driven funds) and the pristine waters they protect are at risk,” said Veolia executive vice president and COO John Gibson. “I think we could both agree that resort to a transition phase is not in the best interest of the Islands, their residents and the tourists they aim to attract.”

Gibson wrote the letter dated June 6 and sent it to Gov. Kenneth Mapp and Interim Executive Director of the VIWMA Tawana Albany Nicholas asking them for the $5.6 million that is currently owed and reminding the government that if they pull out it would mean the government is violating the federal consent decree.

“I’ll turn now to the elephant in the room,” Gibson wrote. “The amount now owed to Veolia — over $5,600,00 — is an overwhelming amount according to any measure, and represents more than a year and a half of services provided and monies owed. Veolia has been exceedingly patient as it has allowed the Government of the Virgin Islands to make steps towards recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Veolia Water said it wants the Virgin Islands government to pay at least $72,052 per month until the debt is paid off which would take about eight and half years.

 

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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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