News Releases from Region 02

05/13/2019

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico –  Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is adding seven sites to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) where releases of contamination pose human health and environmental risks. The PROTECO site in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, which formerly operated as a hazardous waste landfill, is one of the sites added to the NPL. EPA Caribbean Environmental Protection Division Deputy Director Jose Font made the announcement in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, today.

The NPL includes the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Only releases at sites included on the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term, permanent cleanup.

“By adding these sites to the National Priorities List, we are taking action to clean up some of the nation’s most contaminated sites, protect the health of the local communities, and return the sites to safe and productive reuse,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our commitment to these communities is that sites on the National Priorities List will be a true national priority. We’ve elevated the Superfund program to a top priority, and in Fiscal Year 2018, EPA deleted all or part of 22 sites from the NPL, the largest number of deletions in one year since Fiscal Year 2005.”

 “Adding PROTECO to the Superfund list helps provide the legal and technical tools we need to address contamination at this site and protect the Peñuelas community,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “Our strong cooperative partnership with the government of Puerto Rico continues as we target our collective resources towards resolving these environmental challenges.”

Waste management activities were conducted at the PROTECO facility from 1975 through 1999. During its years of operation, the landfill accepted a variety of wastes from multiple sources, including electroplating sludge, pesticides, and pharmaceutical and manufacturing wastes. PROTECO, the former operator, conducted landfill closure activities in the 1990s and conducted some maintenance but ceased performing any post-closure care by 2009. PROTECO strongly opposed, and has not performed, post-closure groundwater monitoring. Groundwater at the site is contaminated with mercury and various solvents.

Across Puerto Rico, community drinking water sources are monitored regularly to ensure the water quality meets drinking water standards. The private and public drinking water supply wells surrounding the site may be threatened by contaminated groundwater underneath the PROTECO facility. EPA will first thoroughly investigate the site to determine the nature and the extent of the contamination and then evaluate the most feasible ways to address it. There will be numerous opportunities in the Superfund investigation and cleanup phases for the local community to participate.

After receiving a letter from the government of Puerto Rico supporting the inclusion of the PROTECO site on the Superfund list, the EPA determined that a listing offers the best course of action to protect human health and clean up the contamination. The EPA took public comment and considered public input before finalizing the decision.

While EPA may find contamination during its own investigations, EPA typically initiates Superfund involvement because states, tribes or citizens ask for the agency’s help.

Community partnerships are critical to Superfund site cleanups. EPA’s goal is to involve community partners in the cleanup process at every site, including exploring future site uses, thereby giving EPA the best chance of transforming the site into a productive community resource.

Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for  significant reductions in birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites, and research has shown residential property values increase up to 24% within 3 miles of sites after cleanup.

Redeveloped Superfund sites can generate a great deal of economic activity. Thanks to Superfund cleanups, previously blighted properties are now being used for a wide range of purposes, including retail businesses, office space, public parks, residences, warehouses, and solar power generation. At 529 Superfund sites returned to productive use, 8,600 businesses operate and 195,000 employees earn more than $13 billion in annual income.

The Superfund Task Force is working to improve the Superfund program. EPA has implemented nearly half of the Task Force’s recommendations to expedite site cleanups and redevelopment and expects to complete the remaining recommendations by July 2019.

For information about Superfund and the NPL:

https://www.epa.gov/superfund

The 2018 Superfund Accomplishments Report is available at:

https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-remedial-annual-accomplishments

For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for NPL and proposed sites:

https://www.epa.gov/superfund/current-npl-updates-new-proposed-npl-sites-and-new-npl-sites

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and visit our Facebook page, http://facebook.com/eparegion2.

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