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EPA Orders Territorial Court to Test for Nitrates in Building Water Supply; Court Cited for Violating Federal Safe Drinking Water Act

Release Date: 09/10/2001
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(#01116) St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands -- The Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands was ordered today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test its water supply for nitrates. The Court collects water from cisterns for public use in its court building in Estate Kingshill, St. Croix. Excessive levels of nitrates in drinking water can cause serious illness or death by interfering with the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, especially in infants.

Under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the Territorial Court must test the water on a monthly basis for bacteria and on an annual basis for nitrates. The Court does test for bacteria, but does not test for nitrates. The Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (VIDPNR), which has primary authority to enforce the SDWA, referred the case to EPA when the Territorial Court failed to respond to its inquiries.

Acting EPA Regional Administrator William J. Muszynski commented on the safety of the drinking water noting, "Monitoring requirements are designed to ensure that we have adequate information to advise the public that the water is safe. While we have no information that there are nitrate problems, and chances are the water is safe, there is a responsibility to provide the information demonstrating this."

Under EPA’s order, the Territorial Court has 45 days to perform testing for nitrates and report the results to EPA and VIDPNR. Thereafter the Court is required to perform yearly monitoring for nitrates and provide the results of the monitoring to VIDPNR. If the system violates drinking water standards for nitrates, the Court must contact VIDPNR and the public within 48 hours.