Biden declares emergency over US Virgin Islands lead crisis

Biden declares emergency over US Virgin Islands lead crisis
Biden declares emergency over US Virgin Islands lead crisis

United States: An environmental emergency has been declared by President Joe Biden in the US Virgin Islands over lead-in-water contamination. The step was taken after tests on St Croix explained that the levels are beyond the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency by approximately 100 times.

The result has been considered to be the worst across the US community in decades, according to the reports by the Associated Press. The Executive Director of Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism Inc. – Frandelle Gerard, said, “On a personal level, it’s been frightening and frustrating.”

What experts have to comment on the ongoing situation?

Concerns have been raised among experts and officials because it is known that lead has devastating effects on childhood development, behavior and IQ scores. The officials have urged the residents to avoid using their taps and start using bottled water – to avoid the intake of lead.

However, during the interaction with the Associated Press, experts noted that these figures may be untrue as they have been achieved from testing that doesn’t meet the standards of the EPA.

A lead Tech and water expert from Virginia, Marc Edwards, expressed, “The data should be thrown into the garbage,” as per the AP.

The Chemical and lead expert at the Environmental Defense Fund, Tom Neltner, also noded that the results might not be accurate. He highlighted that there are chances of oddities in the sampling procedure of St Croix.

A Child drink water containing high-level lead | Credits: EWG

Because of this, the parents and guardians on the Caribbean island are unsure about the quantity of lead consumed by their kids.

Spread of false information 

According to the reports, there is the possibility of the spread of false news in St Croix because it is not the first time that’s happened. Earlier as well, misinformation has been spread among the communities – dealing with lead crises, leading people to be unsure what or what not to believe.  

Details about the testing:

According to the reports, during the month of September, normal tests were conducted by the officials – following the EPA lead testing rules, according to AP. The result of the water was ‘safe.’

However, the residents complained about the discoloration of the water, which has been getting worse in recent months. After the overflooding complaints, officials again decided to take samples and conduct a test – at the meter. This time, the tests were conducted to see whether there was a problem in the utility’s pipes.

Visual Representation of untreated and treated utility pipe | Credits: Google Images

As per the reports, this was the first time the tests reported high-level lead contamination in water. Following the test, retesting was done – which also found high levels. However, in a few other locations, the level was found to be low.

Head of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, Andrew Smith, expressed, “We were all shocked and surprised by the results,” the reports by AP claimed.

The reports have underscored that the more accurate and precise result will be soon released. In early November, the locals and Federal officials conducted detailed testing to find out the prime cause behind the contamination of water. Expectedly, the final report will be released in mid-December.

As per Smith, as many as 3,400 homes are affected because of the latest concerns.  

The water expert at EPA, Christine Ash, was quoted saying, “Out of an abundance of caution, we are recommending that folks who use (utility) water piped to their homes not consume the water until we’re able to do further investigation to identify if there is a potential source of lead and what it might be,” reported the news agency.