THE HAGUE--Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops announced on Tuesday that he expects a breakthrough in the joint sewage treatment plant project for Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin.

  Knops made the announcement during a general debate in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday evening about the effects of the crisis in Venezuela on Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire. He mentioned the cooperation of the Dutch government with St. Maarten during that debate.

  “It seems that there will finally be a breakthrough in the joint wastewater management project for St. Maarten and St. Martin,” he stated. He did not provide details on what that breakthrough would be, but he did say that the project was on the agenda of a meeting with the World Bank in Washington DC later this week.

  Knops said he would travel to Washington today, Wednesday, for a meeting with the World Bank. No details on that meeting were available on Tuesday. The World Bank manages the St. Maarten Recovery Trust Fund on behalf of the Dutch government.

  Knops said that both the Netherlands and France were committed to working together in the interest of St. Maarten and St. Martin.

  The project for a joint sewage treatment plant servicing the communities of Marigot, Cole Bay and Simpson Bay has been on the books since 2015. The need for this project was emphasised by the then St. Maarten government headed by Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs.

  Territorial Council President Aline Hanson announced in January 2016 the approval by the European Commission of the trans-border cooperation programme with St. Maarten. At the time, the joint Cole Bay sewage treatment plant was to be the first of the projects to start.

  Then St. Maarten Prime Minister William Marlin and a delegation of government officials met in August 2016 with then Préfète Déléguée Anne Laubies, representatives of the Collectivité of St. Martin and Louis Fleming to discuss the Territorial Cooperation Programme for St. Martin/St. Maarten 2014-2020. The programme focused on environment and safety.

  Because there were some concerns from residents about the proposed locations, it was decided to have a study carried out to have yet another look at other possible locations for the joint wastewater treatment plant. No mutual agreement was reached, and the joint sewage project for Cole Bay was shelved, even though the European Union (EU) had made financial means available for the project.

  The project is essential to prevent more pollution of the area and to keep dirty water from flowing through the area, much of it ending up in Simpson Bay Lagoon. Sewage treatment is listed as one of the areas of importance in the St. Maarten National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), along with housing, debris and solid waste management.