(VEGA BAJA, Puerto Rico. April 29, 2016) Ten years ago – in 2006 – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed closing the toxic landfill at Vega Baja. “After being operated in an unsafe manner over a long period of time,” the agency said, the landfill was “a potential threat to drinking water sources (both ground water and surface water), surrounding land and, in the case of the Vega Baja landfill, marine resources.” (See photo: Vega Baja landfill is very close to the shoreline: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/41513785)
In 2007, the EPA announced it had “signed an agreement” with the municipality of Vega Baja to close the landfill “completely” by 2010, and praised the municipality for “doing the right thing for the community and the environment.”
But 2010 came and went, and the landfill was still open, still operating and still toxic.
In 2013, toxic water was videotaped running out of the landfill and directly into the Rio Cibuco.
In September 2014, the EPA ordered Vega Baja closed again. And again, it stayed open.
In April 2015, the media asked when the EPA would follow through on this second closure order, and the agency wouldn’t give a date.
In March 2016, a serious fire broke out at the landfill. It took 22 firefighters battling all night and into the next day to put the fire out. Days later, the EPA ordered Vega Baja closed for the third time in ten years.
Here is the entrance to the landfill, with a video taken today. It’s still open, still receiving trash. Still toxic.
If the EPA knew the Vega Baja landfill was “being operated in an unsafe manner over a long period of time” ten years ago, what about now? How much has it poisoned the drinking water and marine resources in the last ten years that EPA has allowed it to remain open?
And how long will it take for EPA’s third closure order to be executed, if ever?
The people of Vega Baja who must live with the consequences of this inaction deserve an answer.