News Releases from Region 02

05/16/2019

SAN JAUN, Puerto Rico (May 16, 2019) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a cleanup plan for the Cabo Rojo Groundwater Contamination Superfund Site in the Bajura Sector of the municipality of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Groundwater and soil at the site are contaminated with volatile organic compounds.

“Finalizing this plan is an important step in keeping contamination out of drinking water wells that serve the Bajura Sector community in the municipality of Cabo Rojo,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “EPA will continue to monitor and test soil and groundwater at the site to ensure that the cleanup protects the community and is working as planned.”

“The local and federal environmental agencies continue on alert over any possible contamination that may affect the health and quality of life of our people. The cleanup plan for the groundwater at the Bajura’s sector in Cabo Rojo, endorsed by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), is an additional sign of the effectiveness of the government’s joint efforts. Continuing the monitoring in that site, shows our efforts and commitment to environment. We will not rest until we have a more beautiful, clean and green Puerto Rico,” said Tania Vázquez-Rivera, Secretary of the DNER.

“The municipal government of Cabo Rojo expresses its gratitude to the EPA’s local and regional personnel for their efforts in protecting the health of our citizens and environment by cleaning the contaminants in the groundwater wells and soil in the Bajura Sector of our municipality. The health of our constituents and the pristine condition of our environment are a top priority in our social and economic development programs. We will continue to work closely with the EPA to ensure those goals and maintain the prime quality of life that our residents and visitors enjoy in Cabo Rojo,” said Mayor Roberto “Bobby” Ramírez Kurtz.

The cleanup plan uses a combination of methods to address the groundwater contamination within distinct areas of the site, including a system that removes harmful chemicals from soil by extracting them in vapor form with a vacuum and then filtering the vapors through carbon filters to remove contaminants.

EPA held a public meeting in August 2018 to explain its cleanup proposal, discuss the other cleanup options that were considered, and to solicit public comments. To read the EPA’s selected cleanup plan, outlined in a Record of Decision, and to view EPA’s responses to public comments in the Responsiveness Summary, please visit: www.epa.gov/superfund/cabo-rojo-groundwater.

Background

Sampling at the Cabo Rojo site found that chemical contamination had impacted wells once used to supply drinking water to the local communities. The water in Cabo Rojo wells that is distributed to the public meets drinking water standards. During the comprehensive study of the Cabo Rojo site, EPA investigated over 65 facilities and collected soil and groundwater samples to identify the sources of contamination. EPA has narrowed the list of sources of the contamination and will take steps to address the sources and treat the contaminated groundwater.

EPA will continue to monitor, test, and study the soil, vapor and groundwater to ensure that the selected remedy is successful. The specific components of soil and groundwater treatment may be adjusted by the EPA as part of the design of the cleanup. Additionally, data will be evaluated to assess how natural processes are reducing the levels of contaminants in the groundwater. The cleanup plan also includes continuing evaluation of the source buildings to test for chemical vapors that may enter from the groundwater underneath. Previous investigations have not found this to be occurring.

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

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

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