HOW THE EPA CONTINUES TO POISON PUERTO RICO

HOW THE EPA CONTINUES TO POISON PUERTO RICO

Unenforced Orders, Worthless Consent Decrees and No Fines for Lawbreakers

Executive Summary

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to claim it is working to close Puerto Rico’s toxic dumps, but new facts unearthed by Puerto Rico Limpio expose this as yet another disgraceful sham perpetuated by the EPA’s Region 2 and the Caribbean Initiative Offices on the Puerto Rican people.

In fact, the former head of Region 2 at the EPA admitted in a letter to Puerto Rico Limpio during the course of this investigation that, at the end of the Obama Administration, 19 of 29 landfills in Puerto Rico are still dumping trash in illegal, non-compliant landfills.[1]

This report focuses on a September 2016 document released by the EPA entitled “EPA’s Work to Address Puerto Rico’s Landfills”, claiming great progress towards closing more than half of the island’s toxic dumps.

This report reviews those public claims with information painstakingly gathered through the FOIA process in the face of bureaucratic opposition from officials at Region 2 and the Caribbean Initiative offices.

In addition, recently, the EPA released an administrative order against the Toa Alta landfill and took judicial action against the Santa Isabel landfill. These were positive steps made by the EPA after months of pressure from Puerto Rico Limpio, the U.S. Congress, the Congressional Task Force on Puerto Rico and the Federal Oversight Board. However, a close review of these actions finds the claims by the EPA intentionally misleading, and in fact, something that would not be tolerated in America’s 50 U.S. States.

Unfortunately, to date, the Government of Ricardo Rosselló, his Secretary for Natural and Environmental Resources, Tania Vázquez Rivera, and the EPA are continuing the policies of unenforced orders, worthless consent decrees and no fines for lawbreakers.

What Our Investigation Revealed

  • We found no evidence that any of the still-open landfills “facing action” or consent decrees have been brought into compliance over the last decade. In fact, all of them continue to break federal laws and continue to pose an imminent threat to the environment and to the public. All of the evidence we compiled in this report shows that most, if not all, of these sites didn’t even comply with initial orders of improvement within 90 to 180 days and improvements have yet to be completed.
  • Indeed, halting landfill closures instead of demanding basic compliance was a policy set out during the Obama Administration dating back to at least 2011. In a letter obtained by Puerto Rico Limpio, the Obama Administration warned the then-head of the EQB under Governor Luis Fortuño against being too hasty in closing toxic landfills.[2] The letter stated Puerto Rico had to slow its closures down to a “reasonable” timetable along with “the development and implementation of comprehensive recycling and composting programs and, in some cases, the development of fully-compliant lateral expansions.” What followed is now clear for anyone to see: abysmal recycling rates, illegal or faulty landfill expansions, no enforcement of consent decrees, no fines issued and continued defiance of EPA orders and federal laws.[3]
  • In the list of landfills “under EPA action,” the EPA was found to have systematically failed to follow through, letting deadlines pass repeatedly, allowing operators to ignore benchmarks and endlessly postpone even minimal improvements. We found no evidence that the EPA has held any landfill in Puerto Rico accountable to date for violating or ignoring EPA orders, including the issuance of financial penalties. Instead, the EPA made excuses, like “fiscal constraints” of municipalities, rather than fully enforcing the law and holding operators accountable.[4]
  • The EPAs own documentation indicates substantial environmental harm and persistent threat for years even while issuing consent decrees and administrative orders.[5] The most recent example was the administrative order issued against Toa Alta landfill on April 11[6], which detailed extreme violations of RCRA and multiple iterations of the “imminent endangerment to human health and the environment” but allowed the landfill to continue receiving and dumping waste in unlined cells for the duration of 2017. Most tellingly, the Toa Alta administrative order admitted that EPA has known about the violations since 2004, but this is the first order it has issued on that landfill.
  • We also found no evidence that Obama’s EPA expressed any urgency to the EQB about its failure to enforce the law, nor raised the possibility of withdrawing EQB’s local enforcement authority under RCRA. All of this suggests that any threat of real federal enforcement ended when President Obama took office in 2009.

The EPA “12”

Below is a chart detailing the 12 landfills the EPA as examples of “EPA actions” that prove they have been carrying out their enforcement authority to the fullest extent. The facts reveal this is, in reality, a list of failures, where the EPA’s media strategy tried to hide the rest of the story in each case from the public.

TOXIC LANDFILL EPA CLAIMS[7]: THE FACTS:
Santa Isabel
(Recent Action)
“Interim closure” was “completed” in September 2014 and EPA joined U.S. Department of Justice in April 2017 lawsuit to order complete closure. A settlement was announced on April 24. The EQB ordered it closed in 1993, but this was ignored. EPA appears to have issued its first closure order in 2007, but will only allow public access to a revised order in 2011 requiring closure by 2013. The lack of transparency in the subsequent documentation available through FOIA raises questions about whether “interim closure” was achieved either.[8] In April 2017, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice filed a court action to order the landfill to complete the closure process four years after the EPA’s deadline [9] and announced a settlement days later.[10] Given the track record of nearly all similar EPA judicial actions being ignored without consequences over the last decade by non-compliant landfills, there is no reason to believe this action in Santa Isabel will result in improvements on the timetable announced.
Toa Alta
(Recent Action)
Ordered in April 2017 to “make improvements” and to “stop disposing waste” The April 11, 2017 administrative order[11] 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. The order revealed the results of EPA’s knowledge of violations dating back over a decade, which included: operating without a permit from the Government of Puerto Rico as of December 2015, classifying it as an “open dump” which is prohibited to operate under federal law; having no liner to protect groundwater from contamination and no controls on gas emissions which pose a threat of explosion and contain cancer-causing materials; no inspection of waste entering the landfill; an estimate of 30 million tons of hazardous household waste currently in the ground generating about 4 million gallons of toxic leachates per year, which it discharges 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; evidence of standing water which breeds mosquitos that can carry the Zika virus, and threatens more than 100 homes and businesses within mosquito flight range; and slopes that were so steep that EPA officials deemed some of them too dangerous to approach in order to measure them. The order 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. However, the order follows the same pattern as all the consent decrees and administrative orders highlighted in EPA’s September 2016 release: it allows Toa Alta to continue receiving and disposing of waste until December 31, 2017 despite all of the imminent dangers the order documented. Given the fact that no other landfill currently operating under EPA action has ever respected any deadline to cease receiving and disposing of waste, there is no expectation Toa Alta will do so.
Arecibo Consent decree issued in 2014 where the landfill will be closed after reaching its final capacity, approximately in 2020. This landfill was found to be in grave violation of federal law, posing a direct threat of contamination to the Caño Tiburones Nature Reserve. This landfill remains in violation of federal laws and continues to pose a threat.[12]
Arroyo It is required to permanently stop receiving waste in June 2019. Touted as an example of EPA action in the face of Puerto Rico Limpio’s landfill campaign, Arroyo is an example of extreme EPA negligence. This landfill has operated without a permit for 13 years, and sends toxic leachates into a residential area from uncontrolled storm. But the EPA is allowing it to continue to receive waste and dump it in an unlined cell even under a closure order issued last year. [13] The EPA’s order requires a lengthy list of improvements to be carried out within 90 to 180 days, but there is no evidence of progress.
Cayey Total stop on receiving waste required by January 2018. Along with Arroyo, the EPA touted its closure order in September as proof the EPA was taking action. In fact, Cayey has been a severe threat to public safety for more than a decade because of the steep grade of the site and storm and ground water runoff and leachate runoff. EPA inspections found three drinking wells in the vicinity, and that the landfill discharges into the Rio de Plata. Despite all of this, EPA is allowing this open dump to continue to accept waste for another year.[14]
Florida Ordered to stop receiving waste by June 2016 (which is now “overdue”). This landfill has violated nearly every federal law under RCRA since it was built and was finally ordered in 2007 to stop receiving trash by 2009 and close. But it refused to comply. EPA waited until 2013 to “revise” its order so the landfill could keep taking trash until June 2016. This order was ignored, and Florida continues to receive waste and operate. EPA now lists Florida’s closure as “overdue.” [15] We visited the landfill after EPA’s unenforced June 2016 deadline on cessation of receiving waste and published our findings online, which showed severe violations continuing unabated.[16]
Isabela Only limited waste is being received, and it will halt completely by June 2020. This open dump has been contaminating public drinking water sources since it opened in 1978. The EPA found grave violations in six inspections since 2004, but only issued an order in 2015 to demand “improvements” be made within 90-180 days. [17] There is no evidence any improvements have been made yet.
Juncos All receipt of trash was supposed to end in December 2014, but it was simply “extended.” A closure order was first issued by EQB in 2003, but was ignored. EPA inspected in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2011 and 2012, documenting disease vectors, underground fires, unstable slopes, no inspection against hazardous waste entry, and no controls against 11,000 gallons of toxic leachates per day observed by EPA entering the Rio Gurabo. The EPA order was finally issued in 2012 to stop receiving waste by 2014; it was ignored. This landfill continues to fully operate illegally.[18]
Lajas Ordered to close by December 2017. This landfill has been discharging storm water and leachates into the coastal wetlands of La Parguera Natural Reserves for years, and was inspected by EPA in 2006, 2012 and 2013, and dangerous violations were documented. In 2014, EPA ordered the landfill to close by the end of 2017, and implement an extensive list of improvements within 90-180 days to increase compliance. [19] No evidence has been found that any improvements were ever made.
Moca Agreed with EPA to close by 2019.

This open dump was built above an aquifer that supplies local drinking water. It has never used federally-required controls against groundwater contamination. EPA inspected it in 2003, 2012 and 2013 and documented toxic sinkholes having formed on the site, along with buried automobiles and other illegal practices. Along with the 2014 order to close by 2019, a long list of improvements were ordered within 90-180 days. [20] No evidence was found that these orders were complied with.
Toa Baja Permanent waste receipt in non-compliant cell ordered ceased by September 2014, and new, fully compliant cell was opened and is operational. This landfill touted by EPA as a success story is, in fact, a case study in EPA failure. EPA inspectors found grave contamination of drinking water with toxic leachate as far back as 2003. But EPA didn’t issue its first order until 2008, when it ordered complete closure of the toxic dump starting with a cut-off in receiving waste by 2010. However, those orders were ignored. In 2012, the EPA amended its order to allow for a new “compliant” cell to be built about 200 feet from the low-income residential community of Candelaria, while allowing the illegal, unlined cell to continue receiving trash until 2014. Still, EPA allowed the illegal dumping in the unlined cell to continue until 2015 while the new cell was completed in front of the residential homes. In October, Puerto Rico Limpio and Rep. Luis Gutierrez made a surprise visit to Candelaria and documented grave federal violations[21] and contamination of residential homes by this landfill that the Obama EPA claimed is “fully compliant.”[22] Subsequent video evidence and testimony in 2017 from Candelaria residents, published online by Puerto Rico Limpio[23][24], have shown illegal expansion and unlined dumping directly against residential property lines, sending leachates into homes and sparking a pigeon infestation in and around houses.
Vega Baja “Was ordered to stop receiving waste by July 2013 and to be closed completely in a responsible, safe and compliant manner. Permanent cessation of waste was achieved in 2015.” Vega Baja is a large open dump that the EPA first ordered closed in 2007. But this order was ignored, and a modified consent order was issued in 2012, requiring the site to stop taking waste in 2013. [25] But the EPA simultaneously let Vega Baja build a new “compliant” cell next to the old and the landfill ignored the order to stop taking waste. The EPA order was extended multiple times, and waste never ceased entering the gates. An illegal leachate channel was built to dump toxic liquids from the site directly into the Rio Cibuco, in direct violation of federal law. In 2010, local news outlets reported resident complaints[26] and clear video evidence that the channel had been constructed and was discharging leachates into the river.[27] Satellite photographs currently available on Google Earth clearly show this channel still exists.[28] In March 2016, a fire broke out in the landfill[29], with media coverage showing the fire occurring in a non-compliant cell (no liner, no cover, furniture and other prohibited items visible). Puerto Rico Limpio documented in April 2016 and April 2017 that trash continues to enter Vega Baja landfill daily.[30] EPA inspections found hazardous waste had been dumped in the original site, and we found no evidence this was ever remedied by the landfill.[31]

Judith Enck’s Treatment of Puerto Ricans as Second Class Citizens

In our first investigation of the landfill crisis, The Poisoning of Puerto Rico, we found documentation that the George W. Bush Administration had issued warnings to Puerto Rico officials, including the Governor, about the gravity of non-compliance at landfills on the island and the urgent duty to comply with federal law. Not only did this approach to enforcement end with the Obama administration, but we have found a letter written to the head of the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) in December 2011 which actually criticized a resolution the regulator had adopted to urgently close toxic open dumps and comply with federal law. The letter was a shocking discovery.

Obama’s former Region 2 administrator, Judith Enck, wrote that she had received correspondence from mayors, many of whom had ignored or defied EPA closure orders for years, that expressed “concerns about the negative impact that this resolution will have” including that it would “bring about the unwarranted closure of municipal landfills” and “increase the cost of solid waste management in Puerto Rico.” She then asked the EQB to “reconsider” its resolution on toxic landfill closures.

It is an astounding example of the Obama Administration, in its own words, siding with the toxic landfill operators who had been contaminating communities for decades and breaking federal laws she had sworn to uphold. In short, Judith Enck had established a policy of only warning the local regulator to stop closing landfills that posed a threat to the public, while her record shows she allowed lax or non-existent EPA enforcement on the worst of them, all but one of which are still open to this day.

In this 2011 letter, Enck also began bragging about EPA’s “enforcement” agenda in great detail, laying out what she claimed were “reasonable” and “effective” actions in motion on a number of landfills she argued would be brought into compliance, closed or otherwise “resolved”:

In 2007, EPA began issuing Administrative Orders to bring five landfills into compliance and close according to approved schedules. Since that time, we have had the opportunity to better understand the solid waste management situation in Puerto Rico and the impact that the loss of landfills has on the municipalities that rely on them. I continue to support these actions to bring about lasting change in the way landfills are operated and in the regulation of solid waste in Puerto Rico. To that end, I have directed my staff to negotiate new orders with the municipalities of Santa Isabel, Toa Baja and Vega Baja to replace those previously issued. These orders will require reasonably timed closure of the existing landfill cells, the development and implementation of comprehensive recycling and composting programs and, in some cases, the development of fully-compliant lateral expansions. I expect that a new order with Vega Baja will also resolve outstanding issues with the Florida municipal solid waste landfill.

These actions will result in the reasonably timed closure of existing non-compliant landfill cells, in the construction of new, fully-compliant lateral expansions that will provide proper solid waste management at a reasonable cost, and support development of critically needed comprehensive recycling programs which are keys to improved waste management in Puerto Rico. I believe that EPA’s actions over the past few years show positive results and, along with the planned actions for the future, will have lasting impacts on the solid waste management crisis now affecting Puerto Rico.

But her record by 2016 shows that none of what Judith Enck promised in this startling 2011 letter came true. All of the landfills she mentioned are still toxic and still operating, recycling in Puerto Rico is still an abysmal failure, and solid waste management has only gotten more precarious in an environment of “anything goes” violations of basic federal rules.

Furthermore, in her role as a local defender of EPA’s policies, Carmen Guerrero has taken no effective action, either in public or behind the scenes, to promote compliance, enforcement or remedies for the decades of harm caused by as many as 20 open dumps in Puerto Rico. Guerrero has limited her role to only supporting the Obama EPA’s media campaign to cover up the EPA’s persistent failure to use its authority to correct a worsening crisis.

Conclusions

  • THE OBAMA EPA TURNED A PROBLEM INTO A FULL BLOWN CRISIS. With misplaced priorities and neglect for the enforcement of existing federal laws as many as 19 disadvantaged communities in Puerto Rico have been put in danger. The Obama EPA misled the public with claims of active efforts on closure, enforcement of consent decrees and the holdovers still at EPA continue with the deception. Through rapid, unilateral, and immediate actions already under the EPA’s authority this crisis can be stopped.
  • A 4-POINT PLAN TO REFORM SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT IN PUERTO RICO. We must move beyond the failures of the past and promote a comprehensive strategy to not only solve the toxic landfill crisis but to create a compliant and sustainable solid waste management system in Puerto Rico. We have proposed a 4-point plan to the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico to achieve this. In summary, the plan would: 1) Revoke the permitting authority of the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB); 2) Close toxic dumps immediately; 3) Repurpose closed landfills for conversion to better uses, like clean, sustainable energy alternatives like solar and wind generation; and 4) Adopt a plan for full compliance.[32]
  • TURNING THE PAGE AND WORKING TOGETHER: A strong cooperation should be forged between pro-compliance advocates, compliant landfill operators and mayors, the Oversight Board, the U.S. Congress, the incoming administration of President Donald Trump, and the new administration of Governor Ricardo Rosselló, to implement comprehensive reform of our solid waste management system. This cooperation should be based on the fundamental respect for enforcement of existing laws as a bedrock of environmental protection in the United States, including Puerto Rico.

 


[1] Letter from EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck to Puerto Rico Limpio Founder Hiram Torres-Montalvo, November 22, 2016: http://puertoricolimpio.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Judith-Enck-Letter-11-22-16-.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] “The Poisoning of Puerto Rico,” Puerto Rico Limpio, August 2016: http://puertoricolimpio.org/2016/08/19/ii-gross-malfeasance-of-the-eqb-documented-by-epa/?lang=en

[4] Letter from EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck to Puerto Rico Limpio Founder Hiram Torres-Montalvo, November 22, 2016: http://puertoricolimpio.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Judith-Enck-Letter-11-22-16-.pdf

[5] “The Poisoning of Puerto Rico,” Puerto Rico Limpio, August 2016: http://puertoricolimpio.org/2016/08/22/iii-dereliction-of-duty-by-the-epa/?lang=en

[6] Administrative Order in the Matter of Toa Alta Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2017-7303] available with appendices at: https://www.epa.gov/pr/toa-alta-order-main-text-and-appendices-orderpdf

[7] EPA, “EPA’s Work to Address Puerto Rico Landfills,” September 2016: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/puerto_rico_landfills_fact_sheet_final_0.pdf

[8] Administrative Order on Consent, In the Matter of Santa Isabel Municipal Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2007-7302) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/santa_isabel_modification_and_7003_aoc.pdf

Modification of Administrative Order on Consent, In the Matter of Santa Isabel Municipal Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2011-7303) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/santa_isabel_modification_and_7003_aoc.pdf

Note: EPA has only provided access to a revised consent order issued October 4, 2011 that would require permanent closure by September 30, 2013. The consent order allows some continued waste deposit necessary for closure, but Puerto Rico Limpio found no documentation on a cessation date, or if in fact if Santa Isabel is complying with the consent order. The revised consent order was issued because of financial constraint. The EPA fact sheet claims only “interim closure” has been achieved, and the Santa Isabel landfill could be anywhere from 7-5 years past the original date for compliance with the original consent decree, and at least three years behind the modified administrative order.

[9] “Feds sue Santa Isabel municipality to order it to close landfill.” NotiCel, April 15, 2017. (In Spanish) http://www.noticel.com/noticia/201990/federales-demandan-a-municipio-de-santa-isabel-para-obligarlo-a-cerrar-vertedero.html

[10] EPA Press Release. “EPA Reaches Legal Agreement to Close Landfill in Puerto Rico”, April 24, 2017. https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-reaches-legal-agreement-close-landfill-puerto-rico

[11] Administrative Order in the Matter of Toa Alta Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2017-7303] available with appendices at: https://www.epa.gov/pr/toa-alta-order-main-text-and-appendices-orderpdf

[12] Consent Decree, United States of America v. Landfill Technologies of Arecibo Corp Civil No. 3:14-cv-01438, District of Puerto Rico, May 29, 2014 available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/arecibo_consent_decree_5.29.14_with_court_stamp.pdf

Note: Entered a consent decree 5/29/2014 for Clean Air Act violations for failing to install gas control equipment. Consent decree requires Arecibo to comply with some, but not all federal standards for landfill operations, and cease operating after active landfill site has reached capacity – projected to be closed by 2020.

[13] Administrative Order on Consent, In the Matter of Arroyo Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2016-7303) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/aguadilla_7003_aoc.pdf

Note: The Arroyo Municipal Solid Waste Landfill is on the site of a landfill which burned underground for three years in the late 1990’s, and was illegally expanded into an adjoining site in 2003. The current landfill has been operating without a permit since 2003.

[14] Administrative Order on Consent, In the Matter of Cayey Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2016-7304) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/cayey_landfill_final_order.pdf

Note: In 2004 the PR EQB reported that the landfill had none of the federal health and safety controls, and had illegally expanded its operations. The landfill is a severe threat to public safety because of the steep grade of the site and storm and ground water runoff and leachate runoff. The EPA consent decree indicates that there are three Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority drinking wells in the vicinity, and that the landfill discharges into the Rio de Plata downstream from the La Plata Nuevo Water Treatment Plant which withdraws some 1.6 million gallons of water daily. Despite all of the warning citations and problems, it was not until September 21, 2016 that EPA ordered Cayey closed and even then will allow the facility to accept waste until 2018.

[15] Administrative Order, In the Matter of Florida Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2007-7305) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/floridaorder0001.pdf

Amendment on Administrative Order on Consent, In the Matter of Florida Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2013-7302) available at:https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/florida_7003_aoc_amendment.pdf

Note: The facility is on a slope up gradient from residential neighborhoods. PR EQB and EPA reports indicate that the facility had been expanded illegally, and that it had none of the federally mandated safety and operational requirements in place. EPA issued an order on June 20, 2007 requiring the facility to be closed to waste disposal by 9/31/2009. Florida refused to comply with claiming an inability to pay, on September 26, 2013 the EPA revised the agreement to authorize until June 26, 2016 for Florida to cease operations. Amazingly, legal action under this consent decree has continued for over 9 years, and two different consent orders have been failed to be complied with, and EPA has taken no action.

[16] “EPA Failed Again: Florida Landfill Still Not Closed”, Puerto Rico Limpio. July 8, 2016. http://puertoricolimpio.org/2016/07/08/epa-fracasa-nuevamente-vertedero-florida-continua-operando/?lang=en. Video of the internal site visit showing route from entrance to the active cell paved over buried trash: https://www.facebook.com/PuertoRicoLimpio/videos/271121396585322/. Video of the internal site visit with observations on violations seen by Hiram J. Torres Montalvo (in Spanish): https://www.facebook.com/PuertoRicoLimpio/videos/271120629918732/

[17] Administrative Order on Consent, In the Matter of Isabela Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2015-7302) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/isabelasigned9_24_14.pdf

Note: Located with Karst terrain that contributes water into the North Coast Aquifer system which is the primary source of public water supply on the north coast of Puerto Rico, and the landfill has no groundwater monitoring system in place. The landfill is on a steeply graded slope, and receives twice the U.S. annual average rainfall. EPA inspected the landfill in 2004, 2007, 2012, 2013, and twice in 2014. After six inspections, the EPA concluded that operational controls at the facility included: “lack of storm water runoff control, lack of leachate collection, lack of impermeable liners, lack of explosive gas control, and a lack of adequate access control.” Remarkably, after over 10 years of inspections, EPA finally issued an order on September 24, 2015 that calls for ultimate closure by June 30, 2019.

[18] Administrative Order, In the Matter of Juncos Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2012-7304) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/juncos_final_aoc_7304.pdf

Note: EPA filed a consent order on October 4, 2012 requiring the landfill to cease acceptance of waste by December 31, 2014, however, while Puerto Rico Limpio has not been able to find more information on why the EPA has admitted to an unknown extension of time granted for compliance.

[19] Final Administrative Order on Consent, In the Matter of Lajas Municipal Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2013-7304) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/lajas_7003_2014.pdf

Note: EPA inspected the landfill in 2006, 2012, and twice in 2013, and concluded that the landfill did not have impermeable liners required for lateral expansions, storm water or leachate collection controls, explosive gas or ground water monitoring, and that it contained steep and unstable slopes, and lacked daily cover of waste in an environmentally sensitive area. On September 23, 2014, the EPA issued a consent order that would require Lajas to close one of the two cells operating within 20 days, and close entirely by December 31, 2017 permanently or earlier if a compliant cell authorized for construction by the PR EQB in 2013 was completed. The landfill continues to operate and Puerto Rico Limpio has no proof that a compliant cell was ever installed.

[20] Administrative Order on Consent, In the Matter of Moca Municipal Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2014-7302) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/compressed_moca7302.pdf

Note: The facility is immediately adjacent to the Aguadilla landfill closed in 2010, and may explain why Aguadilla was closed without delay. PR EQB and EPA reports indicate that the facility had been expanded illegally, and that it had none of the federally mandated safety and operational requirements in place. EPA inspected in 2003,2012, and 2013 and observed the following: evidence of disease vectors, cattle grazing on the landfill, past and on-going underground fires, buried automobiles, scavengers, no inspection of incoming waste, potentially unstable slopes, lack of daily cover, lack of impermeable liners, and lack of gas controls. EPA witnessed leachate runoff into sinkholes ultimately connecting to the North Coast Aquifer system.

[21] “Toa Baja Landfill Tries to Cover Up Toxic Contamination as Rep. Luis Gutierrez Visits Local Residents of Candelaria,” Puerto Rico Limpio, October 4, 2016: http://puertoricolimpio.org/2016/10/04/toa-baja-landfill-tries-to-cover-up-toxic-contamination-as-rep-luis-gutierrez-visits-local-residents-of-candelaria/?lang=en

[22] Administrative Order, In the Matter of Toa Baja Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2008-7302) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/toa_baja_7003_aoc.pdf

Amendment on Administrative Order on Consent, In the Matter of Toa Baja Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2008-7308) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/toa_baja_7003_amendment.pdf

[23] Videos from Candelaria resident Yahira Porrata in February 2017: https://www.facebook.com/PuertoRicoLimpio/videos/384301461933981/ and https://www.facebook.com/PuertoRicoLimpio/videos/389458221418305/

[24] Videos recorded by Puerto Rico Limpio in Candelaria in April 2017: https://www.facebook.com/PuertoRicoLimpio/videos/412267545804039/ and https://www.facebook.com/PuertoRicoLimpio/videos/412259669138160/ and https://www.facebook.com/PuertoRicoLimpio/videos/412266712470789/.

[25] Administrative Order, In the Matter of Vega Baja Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2012-7303) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/vega_baja_aoc09.11.12_0.pdf

Note: A previous consent order was issued in 2007 to the Puerto Rico Land Authority (Docket No. RCRA-02-2007-7309). Puerto Rico Limpio has not been able to access this consent decree, however, pursuant to a modification of the original order of consent issued on September 10, 2012, EPA has approved the construction of a new 25-acre site facility adjacent to the old site in order to accept solid waste from the non-compliant Florida landfill. The old site was to be closed to waste on July 1, 2013, and EPA has admitted that this was completed one year late. Puerto Rico Limpio does not have information on the new landfill site to determine whether it complies with federal standards. The old landfill site did not comply with federal standards on operations such as liners, ground and explosive gas monitoring, security, and of particular concern was very steep slope waste piles. EPA inspections revealed hazardous waste, eroded daily cover, and disease vectors.

[26] “Residents of Vega Baja complaint htat the landfill is affecting the Cibuco River”. Primera Hora, February 16, 2010. (In Spanish) http://www.primerahora.com/noticias/puerto-rico/nota/residentesdevegabajadenuncianquevertederoafectaelriocibuco-367099/

[27] “Exclusive Report by NotiUno 630 AM about toxic waste at Vega Baja landfill” (in Spanish), posted on You Tube. February 16, 2010. https://youtu.be/tT82o5688rM

[28] Google Maps, satellite photograph of Vega Baja landfill. https://goo.gl/maps/4voLUJBcFUn

[29] Gordián, José Ayala. “Firefighters labor to put out blaze at Vega Baja landfill.” Primera Hora, March 3, 2016. (In Spanish) http://www.primerahora.com/noticias/policia-tribunales/nota/bomberoslaboranparaapagarincendioenvertederodevegabaja-1140190/

[30] Video recorded by Puerto Rico Limpio at the entrance of Vega Baja landfill, April 2017. https://www.facebook.com/PuertoRicoLimpio/videos/412258935804900/

[31] Administrative Order, In the Matter of Vega Baja Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (Docket No.: RCRA-02-2012-7303) available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/vega_baja_aoc09.11.12_0.pdf

[32] Letter from Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio, to the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico (The Hon. Orrin Hatch, U.S. Senate). September 2, 2016. http://puertoricolimpio.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/PRLimpio-Submission-to-Task-Force.pdf