Garcia Padilla allowed Toa Alta to operate without permit from Environmental Quality Board; Puerto Rico Limpio Renews Calls for U.S. EPA and Governor Rosselló to lock the gates and shut toxic landfill down

(TOA ALTA, P.R. – April 12, 2017) – Puerto Rico Limpio condemned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allowing the toxic Toa Alta landfill to remain open and operating despite documenting extensive criminal acts and the poisoning of Puerto Rico’s aquifers.

“The EPA has given a green light to Toa Alta to continue breaking the law,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio.  “This is sheer incompetence by EPA Region 2 and Caribbean director Carmen Guerrero.  The EPA can close Toa Alta today, but they refuse to do it.”

The 53-page Administrative Order by the U.S. EPA revealed extensive details on how the EPA has known about the illegal conditions at Toa Alta landfill since 2004, but failed to use their authority to shut it down.  Further, the EPA report reveals that former Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla allowed the landfill to continue operating without an EQB permit.  Unfortunately, the administration of Governor Rosselló appears to be following the footsteps of Garcia Padilla by not requiring a permit from Toa Alta, either.

The EPA findings are frightening:

  • Toa Alta landfill is operating without a permit from the Government of Puerto Rico, and is classified as an “open dump” which is prohibited to operate under federal law.
  • The landfill has no liner to protect groundwater from contamination and no controls on gas emissions which pose a threat of explosion and contain cancer-causing materials.
  • With no inspection of waste entering the landfill, the EPA estimates about 30 million tons of hazardous household waste is currently in the ground and leaching toxic materials into the environment.
  • Toa Alta generates about 4 million gallons of toxic leachates per year, which it discharges illegally into large ponds over unlined sinkholes, into the North Coast Limestone Aquifer, into the Rio de la Plata and tributaries, and threatens at least 16 PRASA and USGS water sources.
  • The landfill has standing water which breeds mosquitos that can carry the Zika virus, and threatens more than 100 homes and businesses within mosquito flight range.
  • The trash piles are so steep that EPA officials deemed some of them too dangerous to approach in order to measure them.
  • The EPA estimates that up to 30,000 children and old people live in Toa Alta –nearly half the municipality’s population – and face a heightened danger from contaminates coming out of the landfill.

“We demand Governor Rosselló shut down Toa Alta, today,” said Torres Montalvo.  “Allowing Toa Alta to continue to operate without a permit and in the face of incompetence at the EPA endangers the lives of all Puerto Ricans.  Governor Rosselló can change that today.  It would also send a signal to Washington and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that under Governor Rosselló, Puerto Rico follows the rule of law, and is befitting to become a state.”