JUNE 2008

Virgin Islands to clean up handling of hazardous waste

In a settlement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the government of the United States Virgin Islands (VI) has agreed to bring itself into compliance with hazardous waste regulations and to set up facilities to which members of the public can bring their household hazardous waste. EPA had cited the Virgin Islands for improperly handling used lead-containing computers and spent mercury-containing fluorescent light bulbs at many different facilities throughout its three islands.

On April 13, 2005, EPA conducted inspections at two locations in the Virgin Islands and found a number of potential violations of the federal hazardous waste law, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). After the inspections, EPA requested that the VI government provide a description and documentation of its practices at other Virgin Island facilities where different types of light bulbs and computer components were put into the trash. This information indicated widespread violations of hazardous waste requirements. Prior to April 13, 2005, the VI government discarded its fluorescent and other light bulbs and computer waste with regular trash without determining whether these wastes were hazardous and without taking steps to minimize or prevent releases of hazardous constituents, such as mercury and lead.

The Virgin Islands was fined $37,195 and agreed to spend at least an additional $150,000 to develop a campaign to foster the public’s awareness of proper household waste management and disposal practices. Under this Supplemental Environmental Project, the government will construct and operate several hazardous waste collection centers, purchase two collection trucks and four storage sheds to transport and store collected household hazardous waste, and advertise the new program to encourage people to use the centers. The government will operate and maintain the collection centers for at least two years and arrange for appropriate off-island disposal or treatment of the collected hazardous waste.