President Joe Biden approved a federal State of Emergency Sunday to address lead- and copper-laden water on St. Croix. The declaration authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide resources it deems necessary to abate the immediate health threat, according to FEMA.
The emergency protective measures include direct federal assistance to provide for water and related items like filters, testing, and technical assistance. The amount of money and exact assistance pledged wasn’t clear in FEMA’s written statement but the time frame for help lasts until Jan. 23.
“FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize and provide, at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency,” the statement said. “The president’s action authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe on the island of St. Croix.”
Local emergency management officials have estimated more than 8,500 people living on St. Croix lack safe municipal water because of the lead and copper content. While cistern water is generally free from these heavy metals, many of these people — like Congressional Delegate Stacey Plaskett — may rely on Water and Power Authority water alone.