The US Virgin Islands are having a major problem with the gigantic amount of debris that was left behind by the hurricane. Forbidden by the populace from simply burning it, the governor is now left to try to figure out how to dispose of it:
Over the past 4½ months, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local contractors have collected more than 736,000 cubic yards of debris — the equivalent of 61,000 truckloads — as they rush to clean up St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, the territory’s three major islands.
As the mountains of wreckage continue to grow, crowding landfills and littering roadsides, debate has raged over how to get rid of the detritus tarnishing the islands’ famous Caribbean landscapes.
A plan to burn the waste was squashed after residents protested over the potential health and environmental effects. Shipping the waste to the U.S. mainland is complicated by the threat of invasive species.
In response to the protests, legislators approved barring the burning of hurricane debris. But Mapp, worried the federal government could walk away from the cleanup effort if the territory defied the Army Corps, vetoed the legislation.
In late December, the Senate voted 12 to 2 to override Mapp’s veto.
Still, as Virgin Island residents struggle to clean up from the hurricanes, not all residents are happy that debris can’t be incinerated.
In the shadow of the refinery, Raphael Munchez was recently fishing for snapper, blue runners and baby reef sharks in emerald ocean waters.
Munchez, whose home was damaged during Hurricane Maria, said the burning ban was shortsighted.
“We need our government to get back on its feet — it’s struggling right now — and they don’t need any more burdens,” Munchez said. “Burn it. Burn it. Burn it. . . . Nobody is worried about pollution right now. We are worried about getting all of this debris off the island.”