for a Renewed Environment (CARE) Grant
CBCC received a $300,000 grant from the US EPA to fund implementation of the pilot Coral Bay Watershed Management Plan – including hiring a stormwater engineer to assist residents in choosing appropriate stormwater mitigation and control methods. The main goal was to protect the marine life in Coral Bay from damage from sedimentation and runoff of pollutants. Other environmental quality objectives were pursued from 2009 to 2011 under this grant with community participation and partnership with many government agencies and researchers. Read below for more details.
Alan Steinberg, EPA Region Two Administrator presents the grant to CBCC. From Left to Right: Marie Naisby, Board Member (BM), Pam Gaffin, resident, Kent Irish, BM, Barbara Dalmida Thompson, Vice President, Sharon Coldren, President, Barry Devine, resident and researcher, Alan Steinberg, EPA, Jean Cottrell, Treasurer, Bonny Corbeil, BM, Elvis Marsh, Advisory Council Member.
The CARE grant enabled the community to initiate innovative solutions and leverage monies from numerous partners and stakeholders to carry out the Coral Bay Watershed Management Plan: Management Plan Document link. Using the CARE funding, CBCC hired a stormwater engineer who evaluated the runoff problems in Coral Bay and recommended state-of-the-art solutions. The history of virtually unregulated cutting of dirt roads and old-style public roads beginning in the 1960’s was the key culprit in the pollution problem.
In 2009, working with a local nonprofit partner, the Virgin Islands Resource Conservation and Development Council, CBCC applied for and secured a $1.5 million NOAA-ARRA grant (link) to restore natural drainage functions and pave roads in order to eliminate or reduce the sediment-laden stormwater runoff plumes entering the bay. CBCC structured the grant to implement activities in 18 project areas selected under the CARE grant. Additional financial contributions of homeowners associations and partnerships with Public Works showed the overwhelming amount of support and local commitment.
To date, CBCC has implemented aspects of 7 out of 11 the Watershed Management Plan objectives using CARE grant funds and financial support from other partners.
Very significantly, the CARE project demonstrated how new techniques could be used locally, including bioretention basins and waterbars, to direct waterflow and effectively reduce runoff into Coral Bay and fragile coral reef habitat. Water quality monitoring and turbidity tests were used to help select the priority project areas and to help quantify the “visible to the naked eye” improvements to water quality in Coral Bay, after rainfalls.
Cistern Drinking Water Quality: The CARE grant also enabled the community to take actions to help improve the island’s drinking water supply. In Coral Bay, rainwater is collected from roofs and stored in cisterns for use as potable water in homes and businesses. Using EPA Drinking Water standard testing, a small study was done of cistern water to determine if readily available means of purifying the water could help control contaminants coming from the air and birds and other wildlife on roofs and in gutters. The Cistern water study (link) concluded that a $1,000 UV lamp purification and filtration system was an easy and cost-effective solution to purify the water to EPA drinking water standards. Since most people do not have these systems installed and use the water as is, publicizing this research is expected to change people’s practices and reduce health risks.
Tortola Dump Smoke: The people of Coral Bay occasionally experienced periods of acrid smoke in the air from the neighboring British Virgin Islands (BVI), originating from open garbage burning at their government dumpsite less than 3 miles away, increasing from 2007 to 2011. CBCC worked to raise awareness (link) with the BVI government, the State Department, EPA, and the U. S. Virgin Islands government. In part, thanks to these efforts, a number of important actions are underway to address the air quality problem. BVI is now sorting their wastes and not burning toxics, and the government has expedited the installation of a new incinerator and enacted a solid waste management plan. Scrubbers still needs to be installed on the smoke stacks to capture pollutants. The CARE partnership helped leverage additional EPA support, with the agency providing air quality testing at various points over the three years.
In Coral Bay, another environmental hazard comes from household and business wastes that are deposited in three open huge bins by the side of the public road located in the shoreline mangroves. The wastes are transported to a neighboring St. Thomas island landfill several times a week. However, while in the Coral Bay location, rainwater washes the litter and waste from the bins directly into the adjacent marine benthic habitat threatening the marine nursery, the turtle and bird populations. The community and CBCC are actively working to encourage the Virgin Islands government to fund moving this collection site and constructing a locally-appropriate reuse, recycling, and collection site.
CBCC has successfully engaged in community/ government partnerships to tackle the stormwater control problems and take on other environmental problems constructively. The core dollars from the CARE grant provided the impetus and expertise to carry out priority actions and to leverage funds and technical assistance from a wide variety of stakeholders at the local, state and federal level to improve the health of the community and environment of Coral Bay. CBCC plans follow-on activities in all of these areas.
Through these CARE partnerships, money, expertise and action were brought to these important community issues.
• Provided engineering expertise to assess priority problems and design best management practices.
• Secured $1.7 million in additional grants and resources to carry out priority projects.
• Mobilized support from community members, Home Owners Associations and Public Works
• Implemented priority actions in the Watershed Management Plan to control stormwater runoff and minimize runoff polluting Coral Bay and the coral reef habitats
• Conducted drinking water and air quality testing to assess risks to community
• Worked cooperatively with VI government agencies
• Reduced sediment plumes from six subwatersheds entering Coral Bay and decreased turbidity
• Demonstrated innovative stormwater management practices at 18 project sites
• Educated residents and contractors on best management practices at ten workshops, and individually
• Educated residents on low-cost purification systems to protect drinking water supplies
• Raised awareness of air quality contamination coming from neighboring British Virgin Islands open garbage burning
• Advocated environmentally-responsible solutions to solid waste management problems contaminating the Bay and threatening public health
The complete reports, data and press coverage on the CARE project can be found “in the cloud”, by clicking the folder below:
The Coral Bay Watershed Management Plan is based on site visits in August 2007 and finalized in March 2008 through a collaborative effort of multiple local and Federal agencies, CBCC, and many local land owners and developers — to serve as a guide for developing ways to protect Coral Bay from sediment and stormwater pollution. The plan provides a comprehensive set of objectives and actions that address land use planning, protection and restoration of sensitive lands and aquatic buffers, better site design and construction techniques, and effective stormwater management. Please note that the selected example sites are representative; there are many more sites in Coral Bay that deserve equal attention. This plan document is being used now as a helpful outline to undertake detailed actual multi-agency and community discussions to plan activities and prioritize actions on achieving the objectives. The EPA CARE grant being received by CBCC for 2009 and 2010 will bring stormwater expertise to Coral Bay expressly to implement the plan. CBCC welcomes your thoughts on how you can contribute to achieving the plan’s objectives. Here is the Coral Bay Watershed Management Plan document.