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FEMA Obligates $30M To VIWMA On St. Croix For Wastewater Treatment System Design

KINGSHILL  The Federal Emergency Management Agency has jumpstarted the replacement of the St. Croix Wastewater system with a $30 million award to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority. VIWMA can now begin the architectural and engineering design work for the island of St. Croix. These funds will allow the territory to begin the design in advance of the obligation for the system-wide replacement projected at $1.5 billion.

Late last year, FEMA determined that the damages caused by the storms in 2017, coupled with the age and deterioration of the island’s wastewater facilities, made full replacement the most cost-effective option to meet industry standards, stop frequent sewage overflows and resolve the need for recurring repairs.

“The award provides critical funding to assist the Authority with the procurement of a design firm to engage in proper planning as we begin the arduous process of modernizing the wastewater infrastructure throughout the Territory,” said Roger E. Merritt, Jr., Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (WMA). He further explained that the Authority is now closer to construction as the WMA is working to solicit a firm to provide the design work.

“This is not just one step forward for the Waste Management Authority. It is also a critical piece to addressing the “One Dig” mandate,” said Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Director of the Office of Disaster Recovery. “The identification of funding to begin design work ensures that the replacement of wastewater lines is included in other infrastructure projects for electrical undergrounding and water line projects already on the drawing board. The Office of Disaster Recovery thanks FEMA for their proactive approach to addressing this issue and will continue to coordinate with consultants Witt O’Brien’s to identify solutions to moving the Recovery forward.”

The wastewater replacement determinations for St. Thomas and St. John are expected by the end of the year.

By 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everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling.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.