The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced April 10 that the cleanup of hazardous waste sites and other pollution spills may be slowed or paused during the coronavirus outbreak, reports The Hill.
The interim guidance focuses on decision making at emergency response and longer term cleanups hazardous waste sites where EPA is the lead agency or has direct oversight of, or responsibility for, the cleanup work. This includes Superfund cleanups, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective actions, Toxic Substance and Control Act PCB cleanups.
The agency said it would consider on a case-by-case basis whether to delay any cleanup projects, which may be carried out by private companies or state and local governments in coordination with the EPA. This comes following the EPA’s release of a March memo which allowed companies to suspend monitoring of pollution if the virus interfered with their ability to do so.
“EPA remains committed to protecting human health and the environment as we continue to adjust to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic,” says EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement. “This guidance will allow us to keep workers and the residents in these communities safe while also being able to respond to any emergency that may present an imminent danger to the public health or welfare.”
The guidance allows for a pause in cleanups of contaminated hazardous waste sites if site workers have tested positive for COVID-19, if social distancing on the site is not possible or if workers would have to enter the homes of any quarantined people to do their work. Those factors would be weighed against imminent threats of direct human exposure to any contaminants.
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