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ASEPA Hazmat Team no longer has 24-hour vehicle permit

The American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency Hazmat Response Team is no longer offering their services 24hrs a day, but instead work only regular government hours — between 8a.m.- 4p.m. daily — according to ASEPA Acting Director, Fa’amalo ‘Fab’ Asalele.


The Acting Director was responding to Samoa News queries, following calls from a couple living in the far western side, who were furious when ASEPA did not respond after they contacted them for assistance regarding what they termed ‘hazardous’ spray painting in their village.


Asalele told Samoa News the 24hr Hazmat services were cut off late last year as they had to follow the governor’s policy on the after-hour usage of government vehicles.


He explained their Hazmat response team vehicle’s 24hr pass was terminated late last year and ever since then, the ASEPA Hazmat response team will only respond when there are critical incidents or disasters — they will not respond to any more burning, painting or spraying complaints, as they have no vehicle to carry out that service.


He said that when there are incidents, the public contacts 911, who in turn contact their Hazmat response team. He said prior to the revocation of their 24hr pass, they would respond.


The acting director said currently they will only respond to after-hour situations like an ammonia leak or similar hazardous incidents.


In the event of such response, he noted, the team must drive to the office and uplift their Hazmat gear, which is stored inside the ASEPA Hazmat response team vehicle.


According to other ASEPA employees, a majority of the time it’s after hours and on the weekend when they receive numerous reports of spraying, painting and burning incident complaints.


According to the ASEPA employee, the Hazmat Response Teams protect life and the environment by responding to chemical emergencies and minimizing the dangers associated with them — and they are unable to do that if the resources available to them are limited.


“The bigger picture is, if we fail in our response because of the limits of time, then there is no purpose of having a hazmat response team… after all, we are trained to respond to hazardous materials incidents to create a safer community.”


The Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Taimalelagi Minnie Tuia in response, said that if there is an ammonia leak or similar incident, ASEPA will have to respond accordingly and they will report to the office where their gear and vehicle is parked.


Asked as to why the governor’s office has suspended ASEPA’s 24hr permit for the Hazmat response team vehicle, she claimed that due to the abuse of government vehicles the governor has put his foot down.


“It’s not just ASEPA. We have moved to limit the usage of their 24hr response vehicles in other government agencies as well. If there is a need to respond for a potential disaster or ammonia leak or similar matters, the emergency response teams will have access to their vehicles. We can't determine if there will be an incident, but if there is, the emergency response teams will respond no doubt,” she told Samoa News.


She pointed out that the Administration is trying to eliminate government vehicles not being used for their intended purposes.