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EPA Approves U.S. Virgin Islands Solid Waste Program

EPA Approves U.S. Virgin Islands Solid Waste Program
The approval enables the expansion of existing landfills, construction of new landfills and design and operational flexibility.

As part of its continuing efforts to help the Caribbean develop solid waste program capacity, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the U.S. Virgin Islands’ (USVI) municipal solid waste landfill permit program.

According to EPA, this approval enables the expansion of existing landfills, construction of new landfills and design and operational flexibilities such as alternative daily cover and alternative financial assurance mechanisms.

Before making its final decision to approve the U.S. Virgin Islands’ program, EPA took public comments for 60 days and held three public hearings in July 2019. Most commenters supported the approval, and several requested clarifications on the roles associated with USVI’s solid waste management and implications of approval. EPA has provided responses, including the overview of the statutory role of the USVI and the federal government with respect to solid waste management and the required compliance with landfill regulations established to protect human health and the environment.

“I am very pleased that we were able to finalize our decision to authorize the U.S. Virgin Islands’ solid waste landfill permit program,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez in a statement. “This approval empowers the USVI government to make necessary improvements to its solid waste management system and facilitates the territory’s path toward a resilient future. EPA is working continuously with the USVI to help it build capacity to reduce waste, prepare for managing waste from future storms, increase recycling and promote a comprehensive and robust solid waste management program.”

EPA is continuing to assess landfills throughout the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Working with federal, territorial, community and education partners, EPA said it has “convened stakeholders, facilitated dialogue, provided technical resources and supplied key information to empower local decision-makers to move ahead with a solid waste management program for the Caribbean.” To support these efforts as part of the USVI’s hurricane recovery, $10 million in supplemental funds have been allocated to the territory.

In addition, the results of a municipal solid waste characterization field study, funded by EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and completed by the University of the Virgin Islands, are expected to be released in February 2020. This study is the first step in developing and updating waste management programs and evaluating ways to reduce and manage waste and cut disposal costs. In addition to helping create an integrated waste management program, the data collected will inform the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands in its efforts to craft recycling policies.

A Federal Register notice for this approval was published on December 23, 2019.

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