EPA, Arecibo landfill settle contamination case
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a legal settlement with Landfill Technologies of Arecibo, the municipality of Arecibo and the Puerto Rico Land Authority to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Landfill Technologies will pay a $250,000 penalty and the Puerto Rico Land Authority and Arecibo will each pay $50,000 in penalties.
As part of the settlement, the landfill’s owners and operators have agreed to make numerous upgrades to the facility that will protect the health of area residents and the Caño Tiburones, an environmentally sensitive wetland and natural reserve that is adjacent to the landfill, the EPA said.
Under this agreement, Landfill Technologies and the municipality of Arecibo will also fund and implement a recycling program and continue to collect and treat non-methane compounds from its landfill gas collection system, which will also reduce methane emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that, when released into the atmosphere, contributes to climate change.
“Like many communities throughout Puerto Rico, Arecibo has a solid waste crisis,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Too much waste is generated and not enough is being composted or recycled. With this agreement, less waste will be landfilled, protecting the environment and the health of area residents.”
The landfill operators have also agreed to implement a comprehensive recycling program, as well as a composting program designed to compost agricultural and yard waste. Landfill Technologies will provide the municipality a recyclables collection and compacting vehicle and 21,000 14-gallon collection bins to be distributed to households for curbside recycling. The municipality of Arecibo will establish recycling collection centers in areas of the municipality where there is no curbside collection.
Meanwhile, the town of Arecibo will also implement an education and community outreach program to be funded by annual, $10,000 payments over an 11-year period by Landfill Technologies. This program will educate community members on the benefits of composting and will provide guidelines for implementing a composting program in households and businesses.
The landfill operators have agreed to make improvements at the landfill, including the implementation of additional flood protection measures, ground water monitoring improvements, storm water runoff controls, leachate controls, the removal of junked autos and other targeted waste from nearby wetlands, and the implementation of a plan to properly fund closure of the landfill once it reaches capacity.
Landfill Technologies is currently using the methane being collected to generate electricity. This system, the first of its kind in Puerto Rico, supplies power for facility operations at the landfill. The landfill’s operators are working with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to connect the system to the grid, the agency said.
The proposed agreement was lodged late last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.