Federal Emergency Declaration Announced During Weekly Briefing

1,598 Clean Water Vouchers Distributed Over Three Days

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – President Joe Biden has approved the USVI’s request for a Federal Emergency Declaration to supplement the territory’s response to elevated levels of lead and copper found in the St. Croix water supply.

During the weekly Government House briefing on Monday, VITEMA Director Daryl Jaschen announced that on the evening of Saturday, November 18, Governor Bryan received notification that the Territory’s request for a Federal Emergency Declaration had been approved by President Biden.

Jaschen said technical assistance is now available from other federal agencies beyond the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which can assist the Water and Power Authority (WAPA) in determining temporary actions and applying those actions to the impacted community.

Also during Monday’s briefing, Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. reminded the community that the open comment period for providing feedback on the administration’s proposed legislation to address abandoned and derelict buildings is coming to a close on Friday, November 24. 

“Your voice matters in shaping how we tackle these issues,” Motta said. “Whether you have ideas, concerns, or support to express, now is the time to make your opinion heard.”

To share input on the proposed legislation, comments may be submitted via email to comments@go.vi.gov

Motta provided an update on the distribution of clean water vouchers, which took place on St. Croix over the weekend and culminated on Monday. Over the weekend, more than 1200 vouchers were distributed to WAPA water customers impacted by lead and copper in their drinking water. The free vouchers may be used at any of five locations on St. Croix for the next 90 days. As of 5 p.m. on Monday, 1,598 vouchers had been distributed. There are 50 pre-registered WAPA water customers who are eligible to receive vouchers but failed to pick them up. Any resident who was eligible to receive a voucher and did not get one should contact WAPA.

Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis reported on child blood lead testing results, which so far have yielded no positive blood lead tests. As of Monday morning, 390 children had completed the initial finger prick sampling. Of that number, 15 children were indicated to need further confirmation through a venous blood draw. Results of the venous testing of 7 of those children returned with below the level of concern for lead. Results of the other 8 tests are pending.

Residents with health concerns related to lead exposure and testing may call the Department of Health hotlines from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519.  The Department of Planning and Natural Resources also operates a hotline at 340-514-3666 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for water sampling concerns. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the hotlines will not be available on November 23 and November 24. For more information, visit cleanwaterusvi.com

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