U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – In a decisive response to a critical public health situation, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has formally requested an emergency declaration from President Joe Biden. This action follows the Governor’s declaration of a local state of emergency on Oct. 30, 2023, in response to hazardous levels of lead and copper detected in the water supply of St. Croix.
If approved, the declaration will cover a 90-day period beginning Nov. 15, 2023 through Feb. 13, 2024, and will provide up to an additional $5 million in resources to the Territory.
The contamination was first reported to local authorities on Oct. 13, 2023, by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which discovered the elevated levels in water samples collected on Sept. 28 and 29, 2023. In light of this alarming discovery, Governor Bryan swiftly implemented measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents of St. Croix.
These measures include:
- A cap on prices for bottled water and water truck haulers to prevent price gouging during this crisis.
- Activation of the Virgin Islands National Guard to assist local agencies in operations that exceed their current capabilities.
- Full mobilization of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) in St. Croix to manage the emergency response efficiently.
In an immediate reaction to the EPA’s findings, the Territory activated the Joint Information Command on Oct. 16, 2023. Since then, rigorous additional water sampling has been conducted, and a focused campaign to test for lead exposure among school-aged children on the island has been initiated.
Furthermore, plans are underway to issue vouchers to impacted residents which can be redeemed for drinking water at approved local stores. Future activities by WAPA include providing water purifying pitchers or sink tap purifiers, which remove lead and copper. These efforts underscore the Territory’s commitment to addressing this crisis comprehensively and ensuring the health and safety of its citizens.
Governor Bryan’s request to President Biden for an emergency declaration is crucial to garner federal support to effectively manage this unprecedented situation. This support is vital for implementing long-term solutions to ensure clean and safe water for all St. Croix residents and restore normalcy in the wake of this environmental challenge.
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. For assistance, please call 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519.
The Governor’s office and local agencies remain dedicated to transparent communication and prompt action as they navigate this emergency. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available and efforts to resolve the situation progress.
For more information, visit https://www.vi.gov/jic/