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EPA Cites the Virgin Islands Government For Widespread Hazardous Waste Violations

Release Date: 08/30/2006
Contact Information: Rich Cahill, (212) 637-3666 or cahill.richard@epa.gov

(New York, NY) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cited the U.S. Virgin Islands for widespread violations of federal rules for the proper management of certain hazardous wastes at many government facilities on all three islands. According to an Administrative Consent Order issued by EPA, government operations as diverse as schools, office buildings and motor pools, as well as the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works, repeatedly failed to separate out hazardous waste from regular garbage items.

“While fluorescent bulbs and old computer monitors may seem innocuous, they contain substances such as mercury and lead that could be harmful to people and the environment,” explained EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. “These items are hazardous waste and should be handled with care so they don’t leak dangerous substances into the environment and endanger people’s health.”

If improperly disposed, mercury can repeatedly cycle through the land, water and air. When airborne, it can be deposited on soil and water bodies, settle in sediments and, ultimately, be consumed by and stored in the fat reserves of living organisms. An unfortunate example of this problem is the prevalence of fish advisories resulting from mercury contamination.

Televisions and color computer models contain an average of four pounds of lead (the exact amount depends on size and make). Lead is a toxic metal that can cause delayed neurological development in children and other adverse health effects in adults, including increased blood pressure, nephritis and cerebrovascular disease. Lead is at the top of the Agency’s list of substances that need to be eliminated from the environment as much as possible. Both computer monitors and fluorescent bulbs can be recycled or disposed of in a manner that lowers the risk of release into the environment.

EPA found these and other violations during a series of inspections in April 2005. The other violations involved failing to immediately clean up used oil spills and properly label containers of used oil at VI Department of Public Works facilities. EPA is seeking penalties of $146,933 for all the violations cited in its complaint and order. The government of the USVI can request a hearing to contest the allegations in the complaint or enter into settlement discussions.

For more information about compliance with EPA regulations governing the proper handling of solid and hazardous wastes visit: http://www.epa.gov/osw/
For more on the handling of computer monitors and fluorescent bulbs visit: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/recycle/electron/crt.htm

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