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Commonwealth Health Center to implement mercury thermometer exchange program for waste violations Facility to also pay $8,000

Release Date: 03/26/2007
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711, higuchi.dean@epa.gov

(03/26/07) HONOLULU - As part of a recent settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over federal waste violations, the Commonwealth Health Center in Saipan will fund an environmental project valued at $17,000 for a mercury thermometer exchange program and pay an additional $8,000 fine.

As part of the project, the hospital will purchase mercury-free thermometers, provide information to clinics and households in CNMI about the mercury exchange program, and make the mercury-free thermometers available at no cost to residents.

“In addition to imposing an $8,000 penalty this enforcement action requires the Commonwealth Health Center to implement a project to reduce mercury within the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands,” said Jeff Scott, the EPA’s director for the waste management programs in the Pacific Southwest region. “Ensuring that mercury does not get into the environment is particularly important in sensitive island ecosystems, such as CNMI. Once mercury enters a waterway, it can convert to methyl mercury, which is easily absorbed by fish and ultimately children who are especially vulnerable to its effects.”

EPA inspectors found that the hospital failed to properly label containers holding waste florescent lamps containing mercury; properly dispose of the lamps; and respond to an EPA request for information.

The waste has since been shipped for disposal to a proper hazardous waste disposal facility as required by the EPA’s hazardous waste regulations.

The EPA’s hazardous waste rules require facilities to properly store, label and seal hazardous waste containers. Facilities must also have properly trained staff, as improperly stored hazardous waste can potentially spill and pose a risk to workers and the environment.

For more information on U.S. EPA’s hazardous waste program visit http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/hazwaste.htm.
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