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V.I. Government Agrees to Clean Up Bovoni Landfill Proposed EPA Order Cites Danger to Human Health and the Environment, Public Welcome to Comment

Release Date: 04/07/2000
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(#00056) New York, N.Y. -- Citing conditions that could endanger human health and the environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has negotiated a proposed order with the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands to clean up the Bovoni Landfill on St. Thomas. The Virgin Islands has agreed to take immediate action to address conditions at the landfill. EPA is now asking for the public's comments on the plans for Bovoni.

The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) gives EPA the authority to order entities to address solid waste issues if conditions pose a real or potential threat to the health of people and/or the environment. Past inspections of Bovoni and three EPA inspections in August 1999 revealed practices and conditions that the agency believes have had and will continue to have serious negative effects on the environment of the Virgin Islands if not addressed. These conditions include: the disposal of hundreds of lead-acid vehicle and marine batteries, some of which leaked electrolyte fluid containing lead and sulfuric acid onto the soil; the improper storage of 250 55-gallon drums of used oil, some of which also released their contents onto the soil; overflowing waste oil coming from a damaged waste oil collection igloo; several underground fires that occurred because methane from decaying solid waste was not adequately vented; and the contamination of the adjacent Mangrove Lagoon with leachate from the landfill.

"We are pleased that the Virgin Islands has agreed to make some very necessary improvements to the Bovoni landfill, and have every expectation that the government will stick to the schedule we have agreed upon," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "Landfills like Bovoni that are designed only to handle household solid waste must never be used for the dumping of commercial hazardous waste or used oil because of the real potential for soil and groundwater contamination. The situations we observed must be addressed as soon as possible, and we expect that once the necessary work is done, the government will not let the landfill revert back to its previous condition."

In June 1999, the Virgin Islands committed to perform some of the work required in EPA's current order, when it submitted a plan to the agency for how it would spend $1 million it received from HOVENSA following the company's settlement of criminal violations at the HOVENSA oil refinery on St. Croix. Any work in the current order not performed using funds from the HOVENSA settlement will be conducted by the government with other funds. After the public has commented on the proposed order, any necessary changes are made and Regional Administrator Fox has signed it, the Virgin Islands will:

Immediately

Take steps to ensure that hazardous waste is no longer delivered to the landfill. These steps may include conducting random inspections of incoming waste loads, inspecting loads coming from the Susannaberg Transfer Station on St. John to insure that hazardous waste is not mixed in with solid waste, training landfill personnel and posting lists of prohibited items throughout the facility.

Cover the operating face of the landfill with at least six inches of earth at the end of each operating day to control insect and animal infestations, scavenging by people, and birds.

Within 30 Days

Submit to EPA a financial plan for carrying out the order, including the estimated cost of all work to be done and how the government will pay for it.

Within 60 Days

Ship all used oil being stored at Bovoni to an authorized used oil recycling facility.

Fully secure the landfill by installing wire mesh fencing at least ten feet high, and repair all holes in the existing fencing. The new fencing will include an entrance gate, which will be locked when the landfill is not operating.

Within 90 Days

Ship all lead-acid batteries and battery parts at Bovoni to an authorized recycling facility.

Submit a plan to EPA to remove and remediate contaminated soil around buried lead-acid batteries. The plan must include an identification of all areas where batteries are believed to be buried, the excavation of all batteries and contaminated soil and their proper disposal. Once EPA reviews and approves the plan, it will be implemented by the Virgin Islands according to a set timetable.

Submit a plan to EPA to remediate spilled used oil at Bovoni, which will include an identification of all areas known to be contaminated with used oil and the removal and proper disposal of the oil and contaminated soil. Once EPA reviews and approves the plan, it will be implemented by the Virgin Islands according to a set timetable.

Submit a plan to EPA to investigate subsurface fires at the landfill. Once EPA has had an opportunity to comment on the plan, the Virgin Islands will begin its investigation. If it is found that fires are burning at Bovoni, the government will within 60 days adopt a plan for putting out the fires.

Within 120 Days

Submit a plan to EPA to bring the Bovoni landfill into compliance with all federal landfill regulations including measures for monitoring groundwater and collecting leachate and a timetable by which the work will be done. The plan will be subject to EPA comment.

Within 180 Days

Submit to EPA a written plan for the future management of lead-acid batteries and used oil at Bovoni. The plan will include prohibiting the disposal of non-household lead-acid batteries in the landfill and will indicate an alternate location for their disposal. The plan may also provide for the relocation of the used oil collection center at Bovoni. This plan will be subject to EPA revision and approval.

A public availability meeting to discuss the order will be held from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM on April 12, 2000, at the Virgin Islands Board of Education Curriculum Center in Tutu. EPA representatives will be present to explain the order and to answer any questions the public may have. In addition, interested members of the public may examine the proposed order and background documents at either the EPA office in the Federal Building or at the St. Thomas public library, both in Charlotte-Amalie. The public may submit written comments to EPA until May 1, 2000. EPA will carefully evaluate all comments and will modify the order if necessary. Comments must be postmarked by May 1, 2000, and may be mailed or faxed to:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Phillip Flax, Presiding Officer
RCRA Compliance Branch
290 Broadway, 22nd Floor
New York, New York 10007-1866
Phone (212) 637-4143
Fax (212) 637-4949