March 6, 2007 — In a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Island Laundries on St. Thomas will pay a $10,000 fine and stop using hazardous chemicals following an investigation that revealed the company was in violation of federal environmental laws regarding hazardous wastes.
"We are changing the way dry cleaners operate on the islands," EPA Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg said in a news release issued Monday.
The $10,000 fine is for past violations of federal rules that require Island Laundries owner McCoy Webster to identify and properly handle and dispose of hazardous waste.
Under the terms of the agreement, Webster will permanently switch to less-toxic solvents for dry cleaning and will spend at least $20,000 to replace and upgrade equipment for the facility.
"Using these new environmentally friendly systems benefits the delicate ecology of the Virgin Islands and may be good for the bottom line as well," Steinberg said.
Jim Casey, the EPA coordinator in the Virgin Islands, said Tuesday that eventually Webster will spend $260,000 on the facility upgrade, as well as other projects to environmentally benefit the community. He said those projects are currently under discussion, so he couldn't reveal details.
Webster had no comment when contacted Tuesday.
Casey said Island Laundries is the largest dry cleaner in the territory. He said the company does both wholesale and retail business.
During an EPA inspection on Sept. 8, 2004, the agency discovered that Island Laundries failed to comply with the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which governs how a business must handle hazardous waste.
Casey said that the EPA did a sweep of all the dry cleaners in Region 2, which includes the Virgin Islands as well as New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.
He said that other dry cleaners across the territory were also found to be in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regulations.
EPA found that Island Laundries failed to properly designate wastes as hazardous wastes, sorted and treated or disposed of its hazardous wastes without a permit and failed to minimize the possibility of hazardous wastes getting into the environment by mishandling the wastes.
According to a press release from EPA, releases of these hazardous materials can cause respiratory problems for workers, contaminate groundwater and seriously damage marine environments.
Casey said that Island Laundries' location near the harbor in Sub Base added to the concerns about the company's disposal of dry cleaning fluids.
The EPA also found that Island Laundries improperly handled fluorescent light bulbs, which contain mercury that can be released into the environment when crushed.
As part of the agreement with EPA, Island Laundries agreed to no longer discard fluorescent light bulbs into the government-owned landfill. V.I. Waste Management Authority officials have said that a private hauler must be hired to get rid of fluorescent light bulbs. No one could be reached at the authority Tuesday for further comment.
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