LETTER TO OFFICIALS: LOCK THE GATES ON PUERTO RICO’S TOXIC LANDFILLS


In a joint letter to the EPA and Puerto Rican DNRA, Puerto Rico Limpio tells Pruitt and Vázquez Rivera that administrative orders and court filings are not enough

(SAN JUAN, P.R. – April 19, 2017) Today, Puerto Rico Limpio released a joint letter it sent to Administrator Scott Pruitt of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Secretary Tania Vázquez Rivera of the Puerto Rican Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNRA) asking them to use existing authority to immediately close all of Puerto Rico’s toxic municipal landfills.

Torres Montalvo reminded the officials that “in a letter to Puerto Rico Limpio late last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged that 19 of the island’s 29 landfills do not even meet the most basic federal requirements, making them illegal open dumps.” However, he noted, “only 12 of those landfills are under any form of action to close and none of them have been fully enforced yet. The result has been an environmental disaster across the island that continues to this day.”

“Recent actions taken by the EPA in Toa Alta and Santa Isabel are simply window dressing aimed at appeasing Puerto Rico Limpio and Congressional investigators. They are fake closures and judicial actions,” wrote Torres Montalvo.

The letter urged Pruitt and Vázquez Rivera to “work together to use your authority and close all of Puerto Rico’s toxic landfills immediately. Administrative orders and court filings have been filed and ignored for over a decade with no consequences,” Torres Montalvo wrote. “Additional paperwork is not the answer; putting a lock on the gates of Puerto Rico’s toxic landfills is,” he concluded.

To read the letter Puerto Rico Limpio sent to Administrator Pruitt and Secretary Vázquez Rivera, click here.

ICYMI – PADLOCK THE TOXIC LANDFILLS IN PUERTO RICO

Puerto Rico’s leading newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, published an op-ed today by Puerto Rico Limpio co-founder Hiram Torres Montalvo in which he labeled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s announcement of closure at the toxic landfill in Toa Alta “fake news.”

The truth, he wrote, is that Toa Alta will remain open, still receiving waste and still posing an imminent threat to the public and the environment. One thing is clear: the EPA and the Government of Puerto Rico have not used their authority to close any of the more than 70% of the Island’s landfills that are open and operating today, which violate the law and threaten our communities.

An Excerpt from: “Padlock the toxic landfills” by Hiram J. Torres Montalvo (April 13th, 2017)

EL NUEVO DIA:
…“The EPA claimed this order was shutting down the landfill and stopping them from accepting waste. But this was fake news. The action by the EPA did neither, and in fact, Toa Alta can continue to operate.”

… “The EPA estimates that up to 30,000 children and elderly living in Toa Alta face a heightened imminent danger to their health right now.”

The time for excuses is over. We can no longer blame former administrations for today’s mistakes. We can no longer simply go to Washington to ask for more Medicaid monies and promote statehood. The U.S. Congress and the Financial Oversight Board have spoken, and both want to see closure.”

To read the full article in El Nuevo Dia, click here.

OPEN LETTER URGES CONGRESSIONAL TASK FORCE AND OVERSIGHT BOARD TO SUPPORT CLOSURE OF TOXIC LANDFILLS

Today, Puerto Rico Limpio released letters to members of the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, Resident Commissioner González, and the Financial Oversight and Management Board, which urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Governor Rosselló to close Puerto Rico’s toxic municipal landfills.

“The EPA continues to intentionally deceive the Puerto Rican people by claiming they are closing 13 landfills,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio, “We have written Congress and the Oversight Board to ask for their help in compelling the EPA and Governor Rosselló to ensure that these toxic landfills do get closed.”

“Neither the EPA nor the Puerto Rican Government are using their authority to close these toxic dumps,” said the group in its letter to the Congressional Task Force. “The Puerto Rican people can no longer suffer because officials refuse to enforce the preexisting law,” Torres Montalvo exclaimed.

“The closure of toxic landfills is important to Puerto Rico’s future. We urge that the responsible parties make the tough decisions needed to put locks on the gates of these landfills today,” said Torres Montalvo.

EPA ALLOWS TOA ALTA LANDFILL TO STAY OPEN AND ACCEPT TRASH

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.”

TIME FOR EPA ENFORCEMENT AT LANDFILLS

Puerto Rico Limpio asks EPA administrator Pruitt to enforce the rule of law and end 8 years of negligence from the EPA Region 2 office.

(SAN JUAN, PR – April 3, 2017) Today, Puerto Rico Limpio released a letter sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Scott Pruitt, urging him to use his authority to immediately close all 20 toxic, illegal, non-compliant landfills in Puerto Rico.

“Since the launch of our campaign the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, and the Financial Oversight and Management Board have acknowledged the islands landfill crisis and urged action be taken, it is now time for administrator Pruitt to use the EPA’s authority and resources to close these toxic dumps once and for all,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio.

The group urged the administrator to uphold the founding principles of the EPA, and enforce the preexisting laws governing solid waste management. Puerto Rico Limpio is calling on the EPA to implement the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) section 7003 and to utilize funds under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to bring immediate closure at all non-compliant sites.

The crisis in Puerto Rico has long been ignored by the EPA. For the past 8 years, President Obama appointee’s, administrator Gina McCarthy and former Region 2 administrator Judith Enck, documented the crisis but never once enforced the law to close these toxic landfills.

“We recently sent letters to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, we are confident that the collaborative efforts of Rosselló, González, the Financial Oversight and Management Board, along with administrator Pruitt will bring justice to Puerto Rico and finally end this crisis,” said Torres Montalvo.

To read the letter from Puerto Rico Limpio sent to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, click here.

ILLEGAL LANDFILLS ARE “ISLANDWIDE CRISIS”, SAYS OVERSIGHT BOARD

Puerto Rico Limpio praises Oversight Board for recognizing landfills as “critical infrastructure”, calls on Governor Rosselló to close dumps and Resident Commissioner Gonzalez to show leadership in Washington

(SAN JUAN, P.R. – March 31, 2017) Puerto Rico’s landfills are in “crisis” with most being over capacity and operating illegally, drawing the concern of the U.S. Congress, according to statements today by officials of the Federal Oversight Board.

“We are grateful to the Oversight Board for acknowledging the severity of the landfill crisis,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio. “We urge Governor Rossello and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González to take immediate actions to support closure.”

“Solid waste management is an island-wide crisis with a majority of landfills over capacity, not complying with EPA regulations and scheduled for closure,” said Ramon Ruiz Comas, executive director of the Board, in discussing the need for funds to improve and repair “critical infrastructure” in Puerto Rico. The comments followed Oversight Board member David A. Skeel, Jr., noting that the U.S. Congressional Task Force on Economy Growth in Puerto Rico included in its report to Congress it was “concerned about landfills in Puerto Rico.”

Puerto Rico Limpio recently released letters to Governor Rosselló and Resident Commissioner González urgently asking for their leadership in immediately halting operations at non-compliant municipal landfills and seeking federal funds for closures and cleaning up contaminated lands. Neither official has yet responded, privately or publicly.

“The only non-compliant municipal landfills in the United States today are in Puerto Rico,” Torres Montalvo said. “This is not how States behave.”

JENNIFFER GONZÁLEZ: TIME TO LEAD ON TOXIC LANDFILLS

Puerto Rico Limpio urges Resident Commissioner González to seek the federal funds to close toxic landfills  

(SAN JUAN, P.R. – March 29, 2017) Today, Puerto Rico Limpio released a letter sent to Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón calling on her to address the toxic landfill crisis in Puerto Rico, and to seek federal funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to bring about their immediate closure.

“Ms. González, please help! The community of Candelaria can no longer live like this. The Toa Baja landfill is toxic and the EPA ordered it shut down, but the Puerto Rican Government and Carmen Guerrero do nothing. The landfill makes my family and me very sick,” said Candelaria resident Yahaida Porrata in pleading for the Commissioner’s help.

The EPA already determined that the landfill crisis poses an “imminent threat” posed by the majority of the island’s landfills, poisoning low-income residential communities, contaminating rivers, marine resources, protected wetlands, and drinking water supplies, but continues to take no action.

“It is time for Jenniffer González to lead,” said Torres Montalvo. “Our communities have suffered too long. It is not enough to go to Washington to simply advocate for Medicaid funds. Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner must fight for the environment, too, and make a public commitment to seek federal funds to close down Puerto Rico’s toxic landfills.”

To read the letter from Puerto Rico Limpio sent to Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, click here.

GROUP URGES GOVERNOR ROSSELLÓ TO SEEK FEDERAL FUNDS TO CLOSE TOXIC LANDFILLS

Residents of Toa Baja are living in trash; No community should have to suffer like this, writes Puerto Rico Limpio to Governor

(SAN JUAN, PR – March 21, 2017) Today, Puerto Rico Limpio released a letter to the group sent to Governor Ricardo Rosselló and his administration asking him to take action in stopping the illegal dumping and expansion of the Toa Baja landfill and ask the federal EPA for funds to close toxic illegal landfills in Puerto Rico when he is in Washington, DC, this week.

Widespread dumping and the illegal expansion of the landfill continues, exposing residents to toxic fumes, contaminated waters, and illicit gas that poses an imminent danger of explosion and fire. “The situation at the Toa Baja municipal landfill underlines the urgency of this matter. Has made the neighborhood of Candelaria unsafe, and uninhabitable for its residents, “wrote Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio.

In 2008 the federal EPA determined that the Toa Baja landfill placed , “an imminent and substantial endangerment to health and the environment” and ordered the landfill stop accepting waste. Puerto Rico Clean visited Toa Baja in July of 2016 with public officials and journalists, where it was shown that the Toa Baja landfill was still violating regulations of the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Since then, no action has been taken to stop the illegal contamination of the community. Up to 70% of Puerto Rico’s landfills are violating federal law and posing a threat to the public, according to findings reported by the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico.

“Governor, you have the opportunity to change this,” wrote Torres Montalvo, “We have the power to close the landfill. . “Citizens of the United States, Puerto Rican should be subjected to and forced to live in these conditions, especially when the law expressly forbids it.” The people of Candelaria, like in many affected communities, are begging us for help every day. Time to uphold the rule of law, and close these illegal landfills. ”

To read the letter from Puerto Rico Clean to Governor Rosselló, click here:  http://puertoricolimpio.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Letter-to-Ricky-Rossello-3-20-17.pdf