(CABO ROJO, P.R. – January 12, 2017) The disastrous fire at Cabo Rojo landfill on Christmas Day continues to affect the health and commerce of the community there, and it is a symbol of the misplaced priorities and criminal neglect of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Region 2 administrator Judith Enck and Caribbean director Carmen Guerrero.
Cabo Rojo has a municipal landfill that is only partially lined, and sits next to the National Wildlife refuge of Vida Silvestre. Its original, unlined dump site has been contaminating groundwater and soil for more than 20 years. But the EPA of Judith Enck and Carmen Guerrero repeatedly prioritized composting over basic compliance with federal law, and the results are now being felt by the residents of El Corozo and El Combate, where “the stench is unbearable” more than two weeks after the fire, and residents with respiratory problems have been seeking medical attention.
“The Cabo Rojo composting fire is a symbol of the criminal negligence of Judith Enck and Carmen Guerrero at the EPA,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio. “Their policy of misplaced priorities has gone up in smoke. Puerto Rico Limpio stands in solidarity with the communities of Cabo Rojo who are suffering the consequences of a decade of dereliction of federal duty.”
The EPA has documented that at least 20 municipal landfills are posing an imminent threat to human health and the environment throughout Puerto Rico, but has only closed one of these illegal sites in the last decade. Puerto Rico Limpio has led a public campaign exposing the EPA’s refusal under Enck and Guerrero to use its full authority to enforce basic federal protections for Puerto Ricans, and has demanded an investigation into the same actions that have been subject to criminal indictments in other U.S. jurisdictions.