The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) collection of household hazardous waste is being phased out in Puerto Rico as the agency continues its transition from response to recovery in its work to respond to Hurricane Maria. EPA worked closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the government of Puerto Rico and local municipalities to collect a total of nearly 250,000 items using a combination of curbside pickup and household waste collection days. The volume being collected has decreased dramatically and the need for this service is coming to an end, according to the agency. The EPA, working with local government officials, will finish its island-wide final sweep of hazardous household waste in many areas of Puerto Rico on April 13. Special one-day collection events in select locations are also being arranged by the EPA through April 22.
Hazardous household waste includes aerosol cans, household cleaners and chemicals, paint and electronics, such as computers and televisions. Domestic hazardous materials also include batteries, which have become a major concern due to the large volume of batteries used by residents who do not have electrical service. Household hazardous waste should not be thrown away with regular trash as it can contaminate the land, bodies of water and groundwater.
“The EPA’s work is transitioning from immediate response to long-term recovery, and our household hazardous waste program throughout Puerto Rico has helped many people properly dispose of potentially hazardous items they may have stored in their homes,” EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez says. “The success of this program is a good illustration of the importance of cooperation and coordination in all levels of government to work toward a common goal: protecting the health of the people of Puerto Rico.”
EPA is collecting household hazardous waste, electronics and abandoned or “orphan” containers, which include drums, tanks, containers and cylinders that were found floating in or near water bodies. About 248,100 drums, propane tanks, cylinders and other containers have been collected to date, which has allowed officials to divert them from Puerto Rico’s landfills.