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.

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

TIME FOR CLOSURE: PUERTO RICO’S TOXIC DUMPS

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)

The Hill:
…“ 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.

EPA ADMINISTRATOR NOMINEE PRUITT PLEDGES TO CLEAN UP LAND CONTAMINATION

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

FIRE AT CABO ROJO LANDFILL:  EPA POLICY GOES UP IN SMOKE

(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.