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Public Works Forced to Develop Hazardous Waste Disposal Plan

Aug. 31, 2006 – In response to a citation issued to the V.I. government and a possible fine from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Public Works Department will develop a program for dealing with hazardous waste that includes government agencies as well as the private sector, Public Works Commissioner George Phillips said Thursday.
Phillips called the Source to report on a phone meeting with EPA representatives, which included Phillips, Government House attorney Queen Terry and environmental consultant Austin Moore of Crowe Environmental Services.
The meeting was the result of a citation, which was made public Wednesday when EPA issued a press release about the matter (See ).
Phillips said the hazardous waste includes computer monitors, light bulbs, all types of batteries and cell phones. "Anything that could have hazardous waste," he added.
According to Phillips, Public Works is already shipping light bulbs off island, but said that if all the government departments pool their used light bulbs as well as other hazardous waste, the cost for shipping them will go down.
Phillips said Public Works has been working on the program since the department became aware in August 2005 that EPA was not happy with the results of an April 2005 inspection.
According to the EPA news release, the violations occurred on all three islands at such diverse locations as schools, office buildings, motor pools and at Public Works. The territorial government was cited for widespread violations of federal rules pertaining to the proper management of certain hazardous wastes.
Phillips said that the phone meeting Thursday was just to discuss the department's plan to deal with hazardous waste.
"We are going to another level next month to discuss the fine," he said.
EPA spokesman Rich Cahill said from his New York office that he couldn't comment because the negotiations were ongoing. "But it started off very well," he said.
Phillips said the cost of Public Works' efforts to keep hazardous waste out of the territory's landfills will be deducted from the $146,933 EPA fine levied against the territory.
He said that Public Works was hit with the citation, rather than the Waste Management Authority, because PWD has a long history of EPA infractions.
"We were once responsible for the Bovoni landfill. We get named in every complaint," he said, listing a slew of responsibilities once under the Public Works umbrella.
Phillips went on to speak about the need for a comprehensive program to handle the territory's trash. He said it should include recycling, adding that facilities were needed where people could put their glass bottles in one bin and aluminum cans in another, for example.
"It's the norm of the day," he said.
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