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.”
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.
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
As news spreads of efforts by the Puerto Rican municipalities of Yauco and Añasco to expand their toxic, illegal landfills – even at a time when Puerto Rico is broke – Hiram J. Torres Montalvo writes in a leading Washington publication, The Hill, that now is the time to close the dirty toxic landfills. Concerns were echoed in The Washington Post by John L. Rafuse who stated, “The EPA has enforcement power and responsibility for solid-waste cleanup and landfill compliance but has ignored for years filthy, Zika-breeding landfills in Puerto Rico.“
An Excerpt from: “Puerto Rico’s toxic dumps: Obama’s legacy, Pruitt’s opportunity” by Hiram J. Torres Montalvo (February 9, 2017) and “EPA employees are blind to their own mistakes” by John L. Rafuse (February 10, 2017)
…“ in Puerto Rico, where I reside, more than 65 percent of landfills operate in violation of federal environmental laws, putting communities at risk and threatening to spark a public health disaster.”
…“ The EPA has the authority under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to padlock the gates of toxic landfills today.”
…“ We are confident that, if the EPA does its part, Puerto Rico, led by Gov. Rosselló, will do its part in helping to right a wrong that has gone on for far too long, and end the terrible scourge of illegal, toxic dumps in Puerto Rico.”
The Washington Post:
… “The EPA has enforcement power and responsibility for solid-waste cleanup and landfill compliance but has ignored for years filthy, Zika-breeding landfills in Puerto Rico.”
…“The EPA handed compliance authority to territorial and local authorities. The EPA has enforcement power but does nothing more than write to ineffectual local authorities.”
To read the full op-ed in The Hill, click here.
To read the full letter to the editor in The Washington Post, click here.
Puerto Rico Limpio Praises Senator Gillibrand
(SAN JUAN, P.R. – January 26, 2017) – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Nominee Scott Pruitt should be commended for his responses to Senate Committee members with his pledge to address contamination around Puerto Rico’s toxic landfills.
In response to a question by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) about Puerto Rico’s non-compliant landfills, Pruitt stated [Page 98], “…If confirmed, I expect to make cleanup of contaminated land one of my priorities. I also believe in the importance of hearing the views of all stakeholders and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further.”
“Administrator Nominee Pruitt’s comments are a promising departure from the Obama EPA that turned a blind-eye to the illegal landfills operating in Puerto Rico,” said Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio. “We thank Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for raising our concerns in the U.S. Congress. We encourage the federal authorities and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate past Regional Administrator Judith Enck and Interim Caribbean Division Director Carmen Guerrero for their role in failing to enforce federal law, and uphold their sworn oath to protect disadvantaged communities in Puerto Rico.”
To read EPA Administrator Nominee Scott Pruitt’s response about Puerto Rico’s non-compliant landfills to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, visit [Page 98]: http://puertoricolimpio.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/EPA-Administrator-designate-Scott-Pruitt-responses.pdf
To read Puerto Rico Limpio’s letter to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Member Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, visit: http://puertoricolimpio.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/PRL-Letter-Sen.-Gillibrand.pdf
Letter Demands Accountability for Outgoing EPA Officials; Urges EPA Administrator Nominee Scott Pruitt To Commit to Closing Puerto Rico’s Toxic Landfills
(SAN JUAN, P.R. – January 17, 2017) – Ahead of tomorrow’s Senate confirmation hearing for EPA Administrator Nominee Scott Pruitt, Puerto Rico Limpio has written a letter to Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and other committee members, asking for an investigation and accountability in the matter.
“Questions should be raised to the EPA Administrator Nominee on the steps that will take place under his leadership to close the Island’s toxic landfills and enforce the law. The EPA’s existing federal authority is clear to regulate cases of environmental waste and violations of the law. But from witnessing cases of lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan to Puerto Rico’s toxic landfill crisis, there is plenty of evidence that the outgoing EPA leadership has not done its job,” wrote Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio.
Puerto Rico Limpio urged the Senate committee to follow through on the Congressional Task Force report recommending Congressional committees of jurisdiction to investigate the EPA’s lax oversight and determine additional steps to close Puerto Rico’s non-compliant landfills. The failed leadership by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, and EPA Caribbean Division Director Carmen Guerrero has contributed to an environmental and public health crisis on the Island. These officials should be held accountable for prioritizing composting over the health, safety and humane living conditions in Puerto Rico.
“I would respectfully submit that the EPA Administrator Nominee should answer how he will implement responsible and effective management to close Puerto Rico’s toxic landfills. Each day that passes, Puerto Ricans continue to suffer the effects of officials whose priorities have been woefully misplaced over the last eight years,” the letter stated.
To read Puerto Rico Limpio’s letter to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, visit: http://puertoricolimpio.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/PRL-Letter-to-Senate-Environment-and-Public-Works-Committee-Chair-1.17…-5.pdf
(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.
The influential news director of NotiUno in Puerto Rico Alex Delgado – drawing from Puerto Rico Limpio’s extensive body of research – exposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Judith Enck for failing her duty to enforce the law and close the Island’s toxic landfills. In a column in Metro, Delgado revealed how the EPA for years consistently ignored its own internal findings that the landfills present “an imminent and substantial threat to human health and the environment.”
Excerpts from: “Puerto Rico is being poisoned” by Alex Delgado (January 9, 2017):
“A few days ago I read a report by the portal Puerto Rico Limpio which provides a fairly complete and detailed timeline of the problem of garbage and landfills, as well as the neglect by the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), resulting in a serious environmental threat that affects the health of the people, but which for some reason groups that are supposedly environmentalists are ignoring…
The current EPA administrator for Region 2, Judith Enck, has treated the matter too lightly, according to the report. “The documents suggest that Enck took a political decision to distance herself from the EQB, despite evidence showing decades of illegality and chaos, and the repeated failure to comply with minimum standards. And this hands-off attitude toward the EQB has been substantially aggravated by the ineffectiveness of the regulatory measures that Enck decided to take under RCRA § 7003 …The documents clearly show that the administrator of Region 2, Judith Enck, is aware of the depth and the magnitude of the crisis and the threat it poses to human health and the environment, and has decided not to use the legal authority conferred on the EPA to protect the most vulnerable communities in Puerto Rico,” reads the documented report by Puerto Rico Limpio.”
To read the full Metro column, click here.