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An Agreement between EPA and the Municipality of San Juan Prompts Effort to Improve Waste Handling Island-Wide

Release Date: 02/25/2009
Contact Information: Michael Ortiz (212) 637-3670, ortiz.michael@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The general public, municipal employees and others will get the opportunity to learn to properly handle used oil, oil filters and mercury-containing bulbs and lamps, thanks to a settlement between the municipality of San Juan, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agreement settles a complaint issued to the municipality under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) for failure to determine if solid waste generated at the facility was hazardous waste, resulting in the improper handling and disposal of hazardous waste and used oil at one its facilities. San Juan has now agreed not only to comply with federal hazardous waste and used oil laws and to pay a $25,000 penalty for past violations, but also to spend in excess of $100,000 to educate the general public and other municipalities throughout the island about environmental and health risks associated with the improper handling and disposal of used oil waste and fluorescent bulbs and other used bulbs and lamps containing mercury.

“This settlement with the municipality of San Juan is critical in promoting the proper handling and disposal of used oil and bulbs containing mercury,” said George Pavlou, Acting Regional Administrator. “The mismanagement of hazardous waste can potentially lead to environmental and human exposure to toxic substances.”

The municipality of San Juan owns and operates a facility that its Department of Public Works and Environment uses to house and maintain municipal vehicles. EPA inspected the facility and discovered various waste storage violations. The violations included the failure to: determine if solid waste generated at its facility constituted hazardous waste; stop, contain, clean up and manage the release of used oil properly; and use proper storage containers.

The municipality will educate the general public about the proper handling and disposal of used oil and the risks associated with its disposal. It will develop a training session to educate municipal employees and community groups about the environmental risks associated with the improper disposal of used oil and used oil filters, and will also conduct training sessions related to the handling and disposal of spent fluorescent bulbs and lamps and other mercury containing used bulbs and lamps. Both training sessions are designed to improve handling practices and reduce exposure of the public due to improper disposal of hazardous waste.

For more information on the management of solid waste in Puerto Rico, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/cepd/solidwaste_in_puerto_rico.html.

For further reading on the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, go to: http://www.epa.gov/region02/rcra/index.html.

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