News Releases from Region 02
Reaffirms Recovery Efforts and Sustainable Infrastructure
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Recently, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Pete Lopez met with Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) to strengthen the partnerships formed with the territory during the emergency response and continue the close coordination on recovery efforts, including solid waste management, drinking water, and wastewater infrastructure issues.
“EPA is focused on long-term recovery work with the overarching goal of helping U.S. Virgin Islands communities build capacity and regain their footing,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “Hurricanes Irma and Maria resulted in profound losses, but they were no match for the resiliency of the U.S. Virgin Islands people. But now it’s time to look for ways to be flexible, entrepreneurial, and innovative, working with our partners to organize our resources and to address the island’s unique circumstances.”
EPA is engaged in conversations on a variety of topics, including environmental, housing and infrastructure issues, during the several meetings with local leaders. EPA will continue to work and find ways to bring resources to the USVI and look for ways to be flexible to address the territory’s unique circumstances and situations. Mr. Lopez met with USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner JP Oriol and representatives from the USVI Department of Health, the USVI Waste Management Authority as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
EPA Regional Administrator Lopez meeting with Virgin Islands Gov. Bryan
EPA is proposing to tentatively approve the U.S. Virgin Islands municipal solid waste landfill permit program. This proposed approval is a key step for the territory to, among other things, be able to expand existing landfills, construct new landfills, and allow the use of alternative daily cover and other operational flexibilities at the landfills. (Public hearings will be held on St. Croix on Tuesday, July 23, 2019; a second hearing will take place on St. Thomas on Wednesday, July 24, 2019; and a third hearing will take place on St. John on Thursday, July 25, 2019)
EPA encourages the USVI to complete and implement its Solid Waste Management Plan, which should lay out the vision for the proper management of the solid waste, the diversion of materials from landfills, include a disaster debris management component and describe how solid waste management will be funded in an economically sustainable manner going forward.
EPA is continuing to assess landfills throughout the Virgin Islands. Working with federal, territorial, community and education partners, EPA 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 USVI recovery, $10 million in supplemental funds have been allocated to the territory.
A municipal solid waste characterization field study, funded by EPA and FEMA was recently completed, and the University of the Virgin Islands is preparing the results. 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.
EPA responded to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, in partnership with the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands governments and partner federal agencies, to the devastation that hurricanes Irma and Maria left in their wake. Included in EPA’s work was collecting hazardous materials and hazardous waste, assessing wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations; assessing drinking water systems; assessing Superfund sites and chemical, waste and oil facilities; rebuilding local scientific laboratory capacity; and helping repair air monitoring networks in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
On June 4, 2019, EPA and FEMA announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that streamlines coordination between FEMA and the EPA-funded State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs so that funding to restore vital water infrastructure can be provided as quickly as possible in times of disaster. In disaster situations where cash reserves are stretched thin, the EPA-FEMA MOU provides a tribe or local government access to a no-interest or low-interest loan from its SRF to help pay for the immediate restoration of vital drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
“We are dedicated to improving public health and the environment for our neighbors in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” concluded Regional Administrator Lopez. “We know there is a lot of work ahead of us but have faith in the strong partnerships we enjoy with our federal, state, and local groups and leaders. Together, we have the energy, passion and ability to get the job done.”