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News Releases

News Releases from HeadquartersLand and Emergency Management (OLEM)

EPA Hurricane Maria Update for Tuesday, November 7

EPA Oversees Proper Storage and Disposal of Medical Waste in the U.S. Virgin Islands

11/07/2017
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WASHINGTON (November 7, 2017) -- EPA continues its round-the-clock response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in close coordination with federal, commonwealth, territory, and local partners. EPA remains focused on environmental impacts and potential threats to human health as well as the safety of those in the affected areas.

A key component of the Agency’s mission in this response is the management of hazardous materials, including the collection and management of medical waste in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).

EPA began assessments of hospital waste storage areas in late September as area medical facilities were becoming overwhelmed with waste while dealing with impacts from Hurricane Maria. Hospitals in the USVI have been producing waste quicker than can be disposed of due to logistical limitations with the specialized shipping containers needed to move medical waste from the islands to the mainland for disposal.

EPA is making progress in addressing this potential public health threat. Since late October, approximately six tons of stockpiled medical waste at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center on St. Croix have been shipped off the island for proper disposal. In St. Thomas, about 29 tons of medical waste have been properly packaged at Schneider Regional Medical Center and are awaiting shipment for disposal.

“EPA’s work to help the U.S. Virgin Islands government handle medical waste protects health care workers who are working so hard to help the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands and protects those who live in communities near these healthcare facilities,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “EPA has taken steps to alleviate the problem in the short-term while we work with FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the USVI government to develop longer-term solutions for the management and proper disposal of medical waste.”

Medical waste is typically produced during diagnosis and treatment of patients at health care facilities. Packaging, labeling, and handling of medical waste must be done according to special health and safety requirements to ensure that workers are not exposed to potential health hazards and that surrounding communities are protected.

EPA will continue to work with medical facility directors to properly package and store newly generated medical waste until it is ready to be shipped to a licensed disposal facility.