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EPA's proposed new rule on hazardous waste treatment counterproductive for Guam, Perez says


An airman tosses used uniforms into a burn pit at Joint Base Balad in Iraq in March 2008. Photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter/Air Force)

By Pacific Island Times News Staff


Waste explosive disposal facilities would be exempted from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed new requirement for open burning and open detonation.


EPA's proposed new rule posted on the Federal Register would require facility operators to look into safe alternatives for OB/OD, but "a de minimus"

 exemption would be granted to facilities that generate 15,000 lbs net explosive weight or less.


Sabina Perez

"As a result of the exemption being limited to waste explosives generated on site, it would also not create an incentive to ship small quantities of waste explosives to different facilities in order to qualify for the exemption," EPA said.


To be exempted from the requirement, EPA said operators must prove that de minimis treatment by OB/OD "would contribute negligible contamination and potential for exposure."


The exemption would also apply to facilities that do not have "any unresolved compliance" and "a history of significant noncompliance."


Sen. Sabina Perez said the EPA's proposed exemption would be counterproductive for Guam, where open burning is banned under a public law that went into effect in December 2022 without the governor's signature. While prohibiting open burning, Public Law 36-139. allows open detonation of WWII UXOs “under certain conditions."


“As a marginalized community experiencing disproportionate impacts of militarization, it is not clear that the proposed OB/OD regulations will benefit our island," said Perez, author of P.L. 36-139.


"In particular, the de minimus provision is concerning as it may prevent the use of safe alternatives, which is what the community has been demanding,” she added.


Guam is among the 20 U.S. jurisdictions that host 34 sites with open burning and open detonation permits. Of the 34 sites, five are government-owned, contractor-operated sites, according to the Inspector General’s November 2021 report.


Perez urged Guam residents to provide input on the EPA's proposed regulations.


"Considering our unique place in the world, it is important we take advantage of this opportunity to speak about our specific needs, which updated federal regulations do not always capture,” she added.


On Wednesday, Perez held an informational hearing with the Guam Environmental Protection Agency to provide public updates on the agency's progress in mitigating health and safety issues surrounding groundwater contamination resulting from sources of dieldrin, PFAS, and the practice of OB/OD by Andersen Air Force base, as well as emergency detonations that occurred recently at the University of Guam.




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