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EPA extends public comment period for Arecibo Superfund site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extended the public comment period for its proposed cleanup plan to address lead-contaminated soil and groundwater at the Battery Recycling Co. Superfund Site in Arecibo, to Oct. 16.

The agency held a public meeting on Aug. 29 to explain the proposed plan.

The cleanup outlined in the plan will address remaining contaminated soil and groundwater on and off the property, which is the source of the site contamination. Under the plan, the EPA would remove contaminated soil for treatment and containment.

Treated soil would be stored in a secure and restricted area on the property, which formerly housed the operations of The Battery Recycling Co.

“EPA would also monitor the groundwater and limit the public’s access to groundwater through existing Puerto Rico laws and regulations as well as notifications to local governments and ensure future land use does not conflict with long-term cleanup goals,” it stated.

The main property at the site operated as a secondary lead smelter and battery recycling operation until 2014. Before this operation, the site was used to produce organic chemicals, specifically fumaric acid and phthalic acid. These activities resulted in high levels of lead and other contaminants in the soil and groundwater.  

The lead in the soil posed an immediate risk to human health. In 2011, the EPA issued an order for the then-operator to clean areas of lead contamination at the source property under EPA oversight.

However, when the company didn’t complete the work, the EPA took over the cleanup and removed lead contamination from employees’ homes, vehicles and nearby pastures, and also decontaminated the source property to prevent further spread of lead.

The EPA added the site to the Superfund National Priorities List in 2017 and began an investigation of the site. It concluded early cleanup activities in 2022. The investigation, along with an analysis of cleanup alternatives, resulted in the newly announced cleanup plan.

Written comments on the proposed plan may be mailed or emailed to Zolymar Luna Díaz, Remedial Project Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2, Caribbean Environmental Protection Division #48 Rd, PR-165 Km 1.2 Citi View Plaza II, Suite 7000 Guaynabo, P.R. 00968-8069 or via email.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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