Mark Vanterpool is not buying the argument that construction works in the hills around Road Town are the main reason for the unusually large deposit of dirt all over the territory’s capital during rainfall associated with a tropical wave last Monday.
Vanterpool, who is the works minister and elected representative for the Road Town area, stated that major rainfall usually results in silt appearing whether or not construction is taking place in the hills.
He opined that – only to a small extent – hillside development may have contributed to the issue.
“I have lived around this [Road Town] area for the last 58 years or more, and it has never been any different in any major way. Every time you had a rain like this, expect to see a lot of sediments come down Hunthums Ghut. I lived in Huntums Ghut, and you always had that situation – major water bringing down a lot of sediments and then we had to deal with it on the low-lying areas [of Road Town]. So, it is not new,” Vanterpool said.
“The dirt in the town is probably helped more by the issue of development – foundations being cut and so on into the hills,” he added.
Vanterpool, in the meantime, said most of the dirt was washed into the town last week through two ghuts – including one in the Joe’s Hill area.
In that area, the government’s Social Security Board recently cut a road to facilitate construction of a housing scheme called Joe’s Hill Manor.
When BVI News Online’s freelance photographer Andre ‘Shadow’ Dawson visited the area yesterday, he noticed that a significant portion of the dirt road at Joe’s Hill Manor had been washed away, possibly ending up in the nearby ghut that dumped huge amount of dirt close to the cemetery at Long Bush.
The works minister elaborated on the ghuts. “All of the ghuts brought down lots of sediment. There were two main ghuts that brought it down – the one that ends by SupaValue was the main source of the soil left by the Admin Complex. The other ghut that came down Joe’s Hill emptied a pile of sediment in front the burial ground at Long Bush. Other smaller ghuts also brought down some soil.”
Vanterpool also noted that the unusually large amount of rainfall that happened within less than 24 hours compounded the problem. According to the government’s Department of Disaster Management, the tropical wave last week poured roughly 8.88 inches of rain in Road Town alone, and approximately 16 inches on the eastern end of Tortola.
“Normally, without that much water, the ghuts would run off relatively comfortably [into the sea], without that much [flood water and sediment] coming over into the streets. But this was more water than we have ever had in such short period of time.”
Vanterpool continued: “What has happened is that, since Wickham’s Cay was developed, the ghuts that used to empty into the ocean can’t empty as quickly. Therefore, the water comes over the bank [of the ghuts] and then it reaches over to the flat area and flooded Wickham’s Cay this time.”
Three landslide and drainage experts from Puerto Rico already are in the territory, trying to make sense of what exactly happened during the tropical wave.
Following the wave, the flood water disappeared, leaving Road Town looking like a mud town.
The Public Works Department, along with private operators of heavy duty equipment, has managed to remove truckloads of dirt from the streets of Road Town. The dirt is being dumped behind the Central Administration Complex temporarily, Vanterpool said.
The workers also power-washed some of the streets in an effort to get rid of the dirt. But there is still a lot more work to be done to bring Road Town back to its pre-rain condition. Vanterpool has appealed for patience from members of the public.
The photos below, captured by ANDRE ‘SHADOW’ DAWSON, show a roadway leading to a proposed development called Joe’s Hill Manor
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