Cemex Concretos, Inc. and Cemex de Puerto Rico, Inc. (known as CEMEX), have settled a claim filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency related to violations of stormwater discharge procedures under the Clean Water Act, for which it will pay a fine and hand over land, the agency announced Tuesday.
As part of the settlement, CEMEX will turn over more than 400 acres of land to the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to manage and preserve. The land, which is located at the Espinosa and Maricao wards in Vega Alta, is estimated to have a market value of more than $2.3 million. The companies will also pay a penalty of $360,000.
Furthermore, as part of the settlement agreement, the EPA estimates that CEMEX will invest approximately $1.8 million to bring its facilities into compliance with the Clean Water Act.
“The kind of wastewater that runs off of these facilities is caustic and can cause serious damage to water quality,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “This settlement not only ensures that the facilities will comply with the Clean Water Act, it also helps directly protect water quality by preserving hundreds of acres of valuable land, which have a direct positive impact on water quality in the Karst region of Puerto Rico.”
As part of its investigation, the EPA inspected various CEMEX facilities and found that the companies violated the Clean Water Act at nearly all of their cement mixing facilities across the island. The agreement requires CEMEX to establish an environmental management structure that includes an Environmental Director, Environmental Coordinator and on-site managers to ensure compliance with stormwater requirements of the Clean Water Act.
Stormwater and water that runs off of trucks being washed at ready-mix concrete plants has a very high pH and contains oils, greases, and high levels of total suspended solids. When these solids settle they can form deposits on the bottom of the water bodies that destroy plants and animals and the spawning grounds of fish.
The complaint alleges violations at 18 of the companies’ facilities, nine of which must all be brought into compliance. The remaining facilities, currently not operation, would have to be brought into compliance if they were restarted, the EPA said.
Between 2007 and 2010, the EPA conducted numerous inspections of CEMEX facilities to assess their compliance with their Clean Water Act permits that govern discharges into the water. Based on these inspections and requests for information sent to CEMEX, the EPA found numerous permit violations.
The violations included CEMEX’s failure to implement best management practices at its facilities to properly operate and maintain storm water control measures, conduct required inspections and keep up to date stormwater pollution prevention plans as required by the general permit for stormwater discharges from industrial facilities.