Claims of no money are hollow, EQB gutted staff, Solid waste an essential service
(San Juan, Puerto Rico) – Today, Weldin Ortiz Franco, president of the Puerto Rican Environmental Quality Board (EQB) admitted that Puerto Rico’s non-compliant landfills should be closed, but he claims there’s no money to protect the public’s health and carry out this essential service. His comments come as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the local EQB are coming under growing public pressure following the visit of U.S. Representative Luis Guiterrez to Puerto Rico this week to do their job.
“Weldin Ortiz confirmed what Puerto Rico Limpio has been saying from the start: the non-compliant landfills are toxic and should be shut down immediately,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio, who co-organized Congressman Gutiérrez’s visit. “The failure to shut down these landfills rests solely with Judith Enck and the EQB, and attempts to abdicate responsibility by claiming there’s no money is a politically expedient attempt to shift attention away from their massive failure to protect the public’s health.”
EQB President Ortiz Franco further alleges he does not have the staff to carry out such closures and do inspections. Yet Ortiz Franco’s assertion contradicts the EPA’s own 2014 assessment – revealed by Puerto Rico Limpio – that the EQB decided to gut its staff from 2000 to 2012, from 14 central solid waste compliance and permitting staff eventually to zero.
Ortiz Franco’s hollow cries follow Congressman Gutiérrez’s visit to Puerto Rico this week to see first-hand the contamination of communities surrounding the Toa Baja landfill. Congressman Gutiérrez heard from residents that rats infest their pantries, the smell from Toa Baja has been unbearable and the mosquitos at night risk spreading the Zika virus throughout the neighborhood. Only now has the EQB stated the Toa Baja landfill should be closed.
Recently, Puerto Rico Limpio released a report, “The Poisoning of Puerto Rico,” which disclosed internal EPA documents proving that the Agency has known for over a decade that the majority of Puerto Rico’s municipal landfills are operating in violation of nearly all federal rules and pose an “imminent threat to human health and the environment,” something the EPA knew for over a decade.
To read Puerto Rico Limpio’s letter to Carmen Guerrero of the EPA (in Spanish), visit: http://puertoricolimpio.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/PR-Limpio-Carta-a-C-Guerrero-limpio.pdf
To read the full report, “The Poisoning of Puerto Rico”, and see the internal EPA documents obtained for the report, visit: www.puertoricolimpio.org/the-poisoning-of-puerto-rico/?lang=en
To learn more about Puerto Rico Limpio, its mission and important information about dangerous, non-compliant landfills, go to: PuertoRicoLimpio.org, Puerto Rico Limpio on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter: @PRLimpioOrg.