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WTJX NEWSFEED: November 29, 2023

Attorney Lee Rohn

On today's WTJX NewsFeed, a class-action suit filed against the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority and Seven Seas claims the entities failed to keep St. Croix water safe. We speak with Attorney Lee Rohn who filed the suit. A woman on St. Thomas was shot multiple times while sitting in her car. The Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority announces the return of its Made in the USVI Pop-Up Shop. VITEMA Director, Daryl Jaschen, talks about how data is now analyzed at the closure of the hurricane season. These stories and more.

TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the WTJX News Feed in today's top stories. A class action lawsuit alleges WAPA and seven Seas failed to keep St Croix water safe. We speak with attorney Lee Rhone, who filed the suit in. A woman on St Thomas was shot multiple times while sitting in her car. VITEAM director Darryl Jachen remarks on the Post-season analysis of the hurricane season.

These stories and more on today's WTJX News Feed from the Virgin Islands Public Broadcasting System Studios on Saint Thomas. This is the WTJX News Feed, where the Marcellina Ventura-Douglas. Welcome to the WTJX News Feed, bringing you the latest news and updates throughout our community. 19 plaintiffs are named in a class action lawsuit against the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority and Seven Seas Water Corporation over lead and copper contamination in the synchronized water supply.

We spoke with St. Croix attorney Lee Rhon, who represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit as Foster because there are thousands of people in the Virgin Islands who now can't drink their water or bathe or brush their teeth in a water hook with it. And it appears that over some extended period of time, we don't know how long since the last test was three years ago.

And they've been exposed to lead and other heavy metals in their water because there is no safe level of lead. This is very troubling because lead is worsening in your system and it stays in your system and causes severe injuries. And we felt like that water, first of all, was not stepping up to the plate as to remedy the situation.

There is no reason that the government of the Virgin Islands or the taxpayers should be paying for this water. Walker and seven seas who are responsible for this, they have insurance. So that's who should be paying for this water. Also, because of the exposure to this, medical testing needs to be done of everybody that there has happened to.

There will need to be medical monitoring in the future because lead and heavy metals have long term consequences. They're not all seen at once. I've had children who have come in here with very high lead levels in their blood. So the WAPA/Government statement saying, Oh, we don't think EPA is right. We don't think there is that much lead in the water.

 

Is first ridiculous because at that level land is a misnomer. You're not supposed to have any lead so any level of lead is bad. So to tell people that it's okay to have lead because it's not that much is simply not truthful. But the levels of lead in the blood of the kids that I have, the children that I have that are being tested are high.

One of the children has over 14 points. There are many of them at seven and eight points. That's high lead content. So the statement that's now being sent around by the government and WAPA saying, Oh, we don't think this is really a problem and we don't think there's really led is preposterous because if there was no lab, it wouldn't be getting the full reading of the full led the blood that you're getting.

The 47 page suit filed in the vice superior court alleges that WAPA and seven Seas water provided residents of St Croix with unsafe water, failed to properly monitor the water the utility was providing and failed to timely warn people of unsafe conditions of water, which resulted in damage to the people of St Croix. This is almost like Flint, Michigan.

This is exactly what happened to the people in Flint, Michigan. It was the water company that did the high quality of water that caused the breakdown of the heavy metals. Attorney Lee Rohn said the children were tested for lead outside of the pediatric lead testing being done by the Virgin Islands Department of Health. She responded to WAPA CEO Andrew Smith's comments that this was a move by those who seek to monetarily gain by exploiting the evolving situation impacting the people of Saint Croix.

You know, we're sorry people are doing this for monetary gain. I have no idea how he can say something that counts. People's people, mothers are seeing their children with high levels of lead and they know that it causes retardation in brain and loss of brain development. These people are not doing this for monetary gain and are doing it so they can get money to have doctors look at their children and try to get help for their children and and and not have to pay for water out of their own pocket so they can be monitored for medical conditions and and be compensated for what they're going through.

That's not a monetary reward. This is a suffering that they're being compensated for.

The call of the suffering is now insulting the people that it's that it caused this up to be ashamed of themselves. Governor Albert Bryan Jr's request to have divorce proceedings kept under seal has been approved. Judge Debra Watlington granted the motion filed by Governor Bryan's attorney, Henry Smock. The First lady's counsel, Julie Everett, said that Mrs. Bryan also joined in the request to keep the proceedings private.

A woman on Saint Thomas was shot multiple times while sitting in her vehicle. Keishma Chester, media relations coordinator, has the details. But at proximately 9:55 p.m. on Monday, November 27, 2023, the Patrol Division and Criminal Investigation Bureau Unseen cameras were called to join Schneider Hospital regarding an assault. The victim told detectives that she was parking her vehicle at her home when a masked gunman approached her and started to fire shots at her multiple times.

I sustained multiple bullet wounds to her body. Anyone with any information on this incident, we are encouraging you to reach out to 911. The Criminal Investigation Bureau at 340 7 seconds or 2211 or directly contact detective administered at 340 7 seconds or 2211 ext 5577. Additionally, if you have any other tips, I can provide those to Crime Stoppers via at one 882 8477.

Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence Stephanie Barnes to 45 months behind bars for what they described as her brazen thievery of government funds. That's according to documents filed in a U.S. district court under federal sentencing guidelines. Barnes is facing a possible maximum sentence of eight years. Prosecutors are, however, recommending three years and nine months in addition to the prison term.

Prosecutors are asking that Barnes remain under supervision for three years after her release and that she be ordered to pay just over $180,000 in restitution to the Casino Control Commission. Barnes was indicted by a grand jury in July 2019 alongside former Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Violet and Golden, who pleaded guilty to theft of government funds and failure to file a tax return.

Golden was released from prison on September 24th, 2021, after serving a little over 20 months behind bars. Barnes has been jailed in Puerto Rico for nearly two years after jurors found her guilty of conspiracy to commit theft from programs receiving government funds, conversion or theft of government property and filing a false tax return. In a 19 page sentencing memorandum filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Rickey, the prosecution asserts that Barnes defiantly refuses to accept responsibility for her criminality and refuses to acknowledge the jury's guilty verdict.

Attorney Ricky says Barnes maintains she is still owed $75,000 in payments from the Via Casino Control Commission for that Ray. He argues that Barnes should not be considered for recent changes to the sentencing guidelines that allow for reduction for offenders who have no prior criminal history. Sentencing is scheduled for December 8th. Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management director Darrell Jackson recently spoke about the end of the hurricane season, remarking on the postseason analysis and how climate change affects the current data.

I was out at Long Beach, California, last couple weeks ago with the National Hurricane Center Emergency Management Conference in the already we're talking about the analysis that was being done. We have a lot of climate change conditions, but we talk more about the models and the validity of the models and ability. As you know, we're now tracking seven days out.

It used to be five days, but now the information coming to us is is projecting seven days out. So we're getting more and more stability in those models with their projections of the tracks to projections of the intensification. But, yes, as the complexities of climate change become reality to us, we see more impact into those models and variables in those models, as well as the ability for that data to be gathered up through multiple mechanisms, whether it's the drones, if you will.

We have drone boats out there. We have drone airplanes of hurricane hunters. We still have a lot of things that are still giving us information and more technology to come there. So definitely, you know, the variables are complex. We talk about the El Nino effect, which was this year or next year. All those you really go into as discussing, you know, this year and projections for next year and begin back to preparedness.

We just have to be prepared. And that hurricane season from one June to 30, November is really our six months of concern and awareness. You are listening to the WTJX News Feed. United States attorney Delia Smith announced that Charles Rawlings, the third, the former ramp agent at the Henry Rohlsen Airport in Saint Croix, was sentenced by Judge Wilma Lewis in district court to 48 months incarceration in followed by three years of supervised release, 100 hours of community service.

A $2,000 fine and a $200 special assessment. Rawlins pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. According to court documents, in the early morning hours of May 11th, 2022, Rollins codefendant Wayne Jeffers, who was a virgin Islands Port Authority officer stationed at the airport, placed a black suitcase containing 12 kilograms of cocaine inside a ladder truck that was parked on the ramp of the airport.

Later that morning, Rawlings removed the suitcase from the ladder truck and placed it on a baggage cart to be loaded on a seaborne silver aircraft destined for San Juan, Puerto Rico. The luggage containing the cocaine was later seized by Customs and Border Protection officers. Rawlings codefendant, Wayne Jeffers, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lewis on December 15th, just in time for the holiday season.

The Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority is continuing its efforts as an American Express neighborhood champion for the shop Small Movement. The Virgin Islands EDAs Enterprise Zone Commission and the Virgin Islands Council of the Arts announced the return of the Made in the Usvi pop up shop back to Saint Croix. We spoke with Nadi Marciano, Ken managing director of the Enterprise Zone Commission, as they set up the new shop in Maine in the US.

The pop up shop is a collaboration between the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority's Enterprise Zone Commission and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the Virgin Islands Council on the Heights. We bring together artists and artisans that make products here in the Virgin Islands and bring them to a location where people can come and shop and find all of these delightful items that that really illustrate our culture and our understanding of ourselves.

The three day shop is located at the Dory Center for the Arts in Frederick said across the street from the Fred. Right now, vendors are dropping off their products. We're setting up today and it will be opened on Thursday at 10:00 with a wonderful, beautiful things I've seen. I've seen the products come in. And I'm really, really excited about it.

Doors for the pop up shop open at 10 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m.. We have very plain on a Thursday evening. On Friday evening we have ten sleepless nights. Should I go and visit later on Friday night? But we're closing at seven each night, supposedly, and on Saturday we will close at 12:00 because we want to be able to give everyone the opportunity to go to the Coconut Festival and then the night into the Christmas tree beach line that the that the festival organizers of the annual Cruise and Coconut Festival say the festival is an ode to farmers who work hard every day to preserve the historical and agricultural legacy of the coconut and

other indigenous flora of the Virgin Islands. Lucien Downes speaks about this year's festival being held December 1st through the third. We're starting off the Christmas season with the Coconut Festival. On Friday night. We're going to have the Krista, the Fine art exhibit, along with a champagne kind of VIP reception. You know, we're going to have, like, food prepared by Teddy's.

You know, Teddy's an amazing chef. And then, of course, we'll have, like, art work with over 20 something artists from around the VA. It's going to be at the Bethlehem Sugar factory, which is like a space that's historic. And, you know, a lot of historical things went down there. And we're using the facility to to bring across this amazing festival.

The Crucian Cultural Group, a subcommittee of the Christiansted Community Alliance is holding its annual Lantern parade. We spoke with chairperson Miss Vivian Everson Fludd about the upcoming event. So the Lantern Parade is this Saturday, December 2nd, and this year we got very creative. The first year we did it, we had paid pedestrians then, which was 2019 and then 2020.

COVID came through and we pivoted and we made it into a mobile temporary where we ask the community members who are participating to put lights on their cars so that we could still have the event absent of COVID 19 guidelines. The event returns with a combination of both a mobile and pedestrian parade Saturday. The mobile parade is going to be lined up at 5:00 at Ricardo Richards School.

We have a judging section for the mobile parade, as well as the pedestrian parade. And so the cars that will be in the mobile parade, the judging will take place at 630. There's an initial judging where the owners are able to show what their bells and whistles are, and then the final judging will occur when they go cross across the Olympic Park in front of Olympic Park so that we can see the cars in motion with the lights on.

The route for the parade will start at the Ricardo Richards Elementary School and end in Christian said town. The parade will then leave at about 630 from the Ricardo Richards School and come out on the roadway, which is Queen Mary Highway, the route for the parade and take it across Strawberry come around past Sunny Isles has Plaza peace sign palm Before that plaza Casa East will make the right on the corner by the same Clair majorettes Come down Peters Hill Speedway gas station pass at as Hawk come around to Beeston Hill and then it will go across what's content meant to come out by Orange grove or where Pueblo is from across Kennedy housing community

as Richmond post office and then it will approach the triangle where the police station is. The pedestrian parade will line up at 630 and questions the town for the anticipated move off time of 730 and then progress down from the square. But the culturally relevant name is Sunday Market. Come down King Street, come across the wharf and go up Company Street and at the market.

Those who wish to participate must register. However, there's no fee to join either the mobile or the pedestrian parade. There's only one requirement that you have lights. You have have, you know, whether it's a string of lights or strings of lights, there is no open plan. So there is no new behavior. And it's just it's been a great time.

And the community support and coming out has been has been awesome to register for the parade, contact the Crucian Cultural Group. They can contact Suzette and she's a member of our group who is serving as a lead for the fair there for the event. And her number is 340-626-0837, 340-626-0837. Or they can send an email and they can text that number as well, or they can send an email to the group's email, which is CCG that all about culture at G.M. dot com.

Again, CCG dot. All about culture at gmail.com and that is the email for the group and we will email or text or whatever where you contact us to get you out the information to participate. You are listening to the news Feed. The Virgin Islands Police Department is no longer accepting vendor application. It's for the children and adults parade.

As all spaces have been filled. However, they are still accepting vendor applications for juvie. Jamal Nielsen, Special assistant to the commissioner for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, told us about the closure to the boating access dock in Frederick said the department's funding and natural resources, and more specifically the Division of Fish and Wildlife, will be closing the said boat access duck near the fish market, encouraging start on Monday, December 4th.

With doing so, the dock will be going under some extensive renovations. But the good news is that boaters will still be able to launch the vessels at that site as no work will be conducted to the ramps. We expect the repairs to take within 20 days of it commencing, so about three weeks. So we hope hopeful. Hopefully that will be done by the new year.

For further questions, contact the department's Division of Fish and Wildlife at 3407731082 on St Croix, or visit the department's website at www.dpnr.vi.gov. The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services, announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services approved the 2022 2023 Virgin Islands School year Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Territorial Plan for Schoolchildren. We spoke with Human Services Public Information Officer Toby Dreama.

Given the announcement, this launch of liberty is a little different from previous rounds because parents or guardians with children were enrolled in virtually school or homeschooling is required to communicate the application to confirm that the children were actually enrolled. We actually already identified the children. And we sent the application out via postal mail to the parents. So hopefully all the parents on the I think the parents should have already received those applications.

And we are asking all those parents to go ahead and select their conclusion and get two to the pictures back to back to us so we can go ahead and get the benefits to your clients as we move in the news feed. We turn now to our regional report, a proposed amended contract between the government of Puerto Rico and ATC, Puerto Rico LP, the operator of a coal fired power plant, drew intense criticism at a reportedly heated public hearing at the hearing held by Puerto Rico's energy Bureau.

Critics accuse officials of withholding key information that would affect those living in the impacted areas. The company is accused of contaminating the contract dating from 1994 has been amended twice already. The amended contract has already been approved by the governing board of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority, which said the details of the amended contract are confit annual because it's still had to be approved by the Energy Bureau and a federal control board that oversees the island's finances.

If approved, the amended contract will go into effect December 1st and is expected to lead to an increase in power bills, which is already among the highest of any U.S. jurisdiction and would award more money to the company. As Puerto Rico LP has come under scrutiny of the Environmental Protection Agency and the EPA is currently testing air and water in the region.

The Energy Bureau is expected to issue a decision in the coming days. Virgin Islands residents can anticipate scattered showers this evening and into tomorrow. Meteorologist Eric Wegener's has the territory's weather forecast. Here's the latest look at the short term forecast for the Virgin Islands meteorologist Eric Weglarz. We'll see sunny skies continue this afternoon at St Croix. There's the chance for scattered showers near sunset.

Temperatures hold in the middle eighties and east wind at 10 to 15 miles per hour. At saint thomas in saint john, similar amount of sunshine. There's the chance for a shower as well, mainly near sunset. Highs will be a few degrees warmer in the upper eighties to near 90 winds also from the east at 10 to 15 miles per hour tonight.

Scattered showers to taper off to mostly clear skies at Saint Croix. Temperatures fall back into the upper seventies. Winds pivot to the northeast at 10 to 15 miles per hour, gusts a bit higher near 20 at Saint Thomas and Saint John. Same deal scattered showers will taper off early to partly cloudy skies after midnight. Those will fall back into the upper seventies.

Winds also pivot to the northeast at 15 to 20, with gusts as high as 25. Thursday features sunshine area wide with scattered showers possible in the afternoon. Highs of Saint Croix will reach the upper eighties to near 90 at Saint Thomas and Saint John at similar with highs in the upper eighties to near 90. That's the latest look at your short term forecast.

Meteorologist Eric Weglarz. We are at the end of today's WTJX news feed I Marcellina Ventura-Douglas. Join me every weekday at 5 p.m.. If you haven't already, be sure to download the WTJX app and if you miss a part of our news, you can listen to it on demand wherever you get your podcasts.

 

Marcellina Ventura-Douglas is the Radio News Reporter for WTJX-FM, 93.1. Born and raised on St. Croix, Ventura-Douglas graduated from the University of the Virgin Islands, where she received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. While at UVI, she worked in the office of Senator Shawn-Michael Malone before beginning her career in radio. Ventura-Douglas fell in love with radio growing up, when she and her father would spend every morning and afternoon listening to local radio news legend, Alvin G. After leaving Senator Malone's office, she became the program director of Vivid Streaming. She then joined WTJX-TV, Channel 12 as a producer. Soon after, she was tapped to switch to WTJX-FM to present an evening news. She is passionate about bringing radio news to the Virgin Islands community through the WTJX NewsFeed, airing every weekday at 5:00pm on 93.1 FM and available online, on demand.
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