In an ongoing project to promote sound chemical management in Palau, EQPB has partnered with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chemical experts. The team, which included U.S. EPA On-Scene Coordinators Chris Reiner and Bret Moxley, out of Region 9, along with environmental contractor Bryan Chernick, arrived in Palau July 12 and left July 20.
Funded by an interagency agreement with the U.S. Department of State, specifically the Bureau of Oceans, and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, this initial site visit focused on inspecting chemical stockpiles that EQPB has been collecting since 2019. The visit also has started discussions on how the hazardous materials can be disposed of in a manner that is safe for the environment and for the people of Palau.
EQPB’s Hazardous Material Coordinator, Olkeriil Yaoch, has been working with the U.S. EPA team and local agencies and companies to collect and inventory the waste. This effort resulted in chemicals collected from the EQPB laboratory, Belau National Hospital, Division of Environmental Health, Palau High School, Palau Community College, PPUC Aimeliik Power Plant, Palau International Coral Reef Center, and Western Caroline Trading Co., locally known as WCTC. The hazardous materials include laboratory and industrial chemicals, pesticides, mercury, refrigerants, photo-developing chemicals, cleaning agents, and unusable hospital chemicals. EQPB would like to thank community partners for working with us to safeguard our island environment.
As part of the community outreach, Olkeriil, Chris and the team spent time with PCC instructors and PHS teachers sharing information on properly storing chemicals. Olkeriil said this visit has been an awareness-building activity for EQPB as well as local agencies and businesses.
The U.S. EPA team reviewed the inventory with Olkeriil, conducted site visits to verify the types of chemicals present, and most importantly, assessed means of disposal. According to Chris, some of the chemical stockpiles can be neutralized, rendering them safe to dispose of in Palau, while others must be properly packaged and shipped out-of-country for proper disposal.
In November, the US EPA team will return to neutralize, dispose, and prepare remaining chemicals for export and disposal. EQPB thanks U.S. EPA Region 9 and Chris and his team for their continued support. This partnership further strengthens EQPB’s capacity to better protect Palau’s fragile natural environment as mandated by PNCA Title 24.
For more information on regulations, permits, trainings, and other environment-related activities, please call EQPB at 488-1639/3600. You can also visit https://www.palaugov.pw/eqpb for more information on the nine (9) regulations EQPB is authorized to promulgate, implement, and enforce.