SPECIAL WASTE AND HAZARDOUS WASTE MANAGEMENT
Steps in the Implementation of the Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan
The V.I. Waste Management Authority (WMA) has the responsibility to manage all non-hazardous and special wastes in the Virgin Islands. Non-hazardous waste is defined as regular household trash. Special waste designations are made by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR)-Division of Environmental Protection (DEP). Special wastes designations have been made for used oil, lead-acid batteries, and, most recently, scrap tires. At present, WMA is not a permitted to generate, transport, store, treat or dispose of any hazardous waste.
Hazardous wastes are to be managed by the person who generates them and who must apply for and receive a permit from DPNR-DEP to generate, store, transport, or treat and dispose of hazardous waste. These generators are regulated by DPNR-DEP and must demonstrate that they are in compliance with their permits. Presently, there are a limited number of permitted contractors and sites, and the costs associated with disposal can be significant. Consequently, many of these hazardous wastes, such as electronic-waste (e-waste), fluorescent light bulbs, and medical wastes, are improperly and illegally discarded in public bins and illegal dump sites, and subsequently, in our landfills.
WMA conducts random hazardous waste screening at the landfills as required; however, this effort does not capture all hazardous and special wastes. To prevent and reduce the amount of hazardous and special waste entering the waste stream, WMA has been providing education, special waste and environmental programs focused on the proper disposal of these wastes. Public education has also been the focus of the enforcement strategy to date and will continue to be utilized. However, WMA enforcement strategy is currently focused on compliance with fines, penalties and remediation costs to be borne by the responsible parties.
To complement our education and enforcement programs, WMA also developed and operates special waste programs, which include the collection and recycling of used motor oil, lead-acid batteries and scrap tires.
Used oil Do-It Yourself (DIY) Collection Sites have been in operation since 1996 for residents who generate less than 5 gallons per month. Commercial generators are required to engage the services of a permitted waste hauler and disposal site. In Fiscal Year 2006, 8,491 gallons of DIY used oil were recycled or reused.
Standard operating procedures approved by DPNR-DEP for the management of lead-acid batteries permit WMA to ship lead-acid batteries recovered from public bins and illegal dumpsites to a mainland recycling plant. To date, in calendar year 2006, 1,868 batteries were shipped off-island.
Our short term scrap tire management program has been initiated on St. John with three 40-foot trailers having been shipped to the mainland for recycling. The long term management program is still under development as WMA seeks the required permits to store, process and ship scrap tires off-island. The proposed new Susannaberg Transfer Station will incorporate the scrap tire processing operation and off-island shipment. It is anticipated that St. Croix permits will be granted within the next two months and similar operations will begin at the Anguilla landfill. Site evaluation for scrap tire processing at Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas is ongoing.
To prevent and reduce pollution and contaminants from entering the environment and to minimize or mitigate health risks to our employees and contractors, WMA objectives have also focused on the diversion of hazardous waste from the solid waste stream.
Electronic-waste (e-waste) was collected from the general public and government offices at recycling fairs co-sponsored by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DPNR and WMA on three islands in November 2005. Three 40-foot trailers of e-waste were shipped off-island. Computers collected from government offices represented more than 90 percent of the shipment and additional computers collected and stored by the Department of Property & Procurement have been palletized and shrink-wrapped for disposal when annual collection is conducted in November 2006.
Fluorescent bulbs are considered a federally-regulated hazardous waste when generated by large commercial users such as the government. While compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) for your home are not legally considered hazardous waste according to federal solid waste rules, it is still best for our environment to dispose of your CFL properly upon burnout. CFLs are considered a household hazardous waste, which, in the absence of Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection sites, should be collected, transported, and stored by a permitted contractor for proper disposal. However, CFLs placed in sealed plastic bags before disposal to prevent mercury emission (which is minimal at 4mg per bulb), if breakage occurs, may be discarded with household waste.
Household hazardous waste disposal requirements for CFLs should not discourage households from replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs. The energy efficiency of CFLs reduces your electrical consumption and the operational demands placed on the Virgin Islands Wate and Power Authority. The use of CFLs can help you reduce your electricity bill and reduces WAPA's power plant's load requirements and energy production, which in turn, reduces the mercury emission associated with the burning of fossil fuels. CFLs are the correct energy-efficiency and environmentally friendly choice. WMA supports the V.I. Water & Power Authority (WAPA) and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) – V.I. Energy Office (VIEO) in their mission to educate Virgin Islands consumers to switch to compact fluorescent bulbs and encourage your participation in WAPAs upcoming "Change-A-Light" events throughout the territory.
Recent incidences of medical waste discovered at public bin sites and the landfills, prompted WMA to request a meeting with the Department of Health's (DOH) Division of Environmental Health to discuss the regulation of medical waste generators. The major outcome of this meeting was the need for DOH, WMA, and DPNR to (1) to review and amend, if necessary, the medical waste rules and regulations recently promulgated by DPNR and (2) collaborate on the promulgation of proposed rules and regulations for DOH-Environmental Health and WMA which will delineate regulatory responsibilities and enforcement authorities. In a related matter, WMA also responded to and will collaborate with the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center to facilitate their proposed on-island treatment and disposal of medical waste.
The proper management of special and hazardous waste has been a priority for the WMA since the authority's inception. The reduction of quantity and toxicity of solid waste entering the waste stream ranks highest in the hierarchy of waste management strategies relative to the least negative impact on the environment. Recycling and reuse follow and have also been incorporated into our special and hazardous waste reduction strategies. Scrap metal processing and aluminum can recycling programs are already underway. New proposed recycling and reuse programs for yard waste processing and plastics recycling are on the planning board.
With the successful diversion of these special and hazardous waste from the waste stream, proposed resource recovery facilities such as waste-to-energy plants will be evaluated for the beneficial volume reduction, alternative energy value, and associated costs within specified acceptable environmental impact criteria. All of the above programs and activities are necessary steps in the implementation of the proposed Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan for the Virgin Islands.
Editor's Note: May Adams Cornwall is the executive director of the V.I. Waste Management Authority.
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