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EPA invites comments on proposed cleanup plan for Arecibo Superfund site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging the public to comment on its proposed cleanup plan to address lead-contaminated soil and groundwater at the Battery Recycling Co. Superfund Site in Arecibo.

A 30-day public comment period began Aug. 15. The EPA will host a public meeting at Casa Ulanga, on 7 Gonzalo Marín St. in Arecibo from 5-7 p.m. on Aug. 29 to explain the cleanup proposal.

“Lead is a toxic metal that can cause damage to a child’s ability to learn and a range of health problems in adults,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. García. “EPA first addressed the most serious risks posed by this site years ago, and now we are focused on finalizing a full-scale cleanup of the site to protect public health well into the future. EPA’s proposed plan for the site is to remove the remaining contaminated soil and monitor and restrict groundwater that could pose a risk to public health. We encourage the public to join our meeting, ask questions and share their views on the proposed plan.”

The proposed plan will address remaining contaminated soil and groundwater on and off the property that is the source of the site contamination. Under the proposed plan, the EPA will extract contaminated soil for on-site treatment and containment.  

Treated soil would be stored in a secure and restricted area at the source property, formerly operated by The Battery Recycling Co. (BRC). Additionally, the EPA will also monitor the groundwater and restrict public access to it through Puerto Rico’s existing laws and regulations, send notifications to local governments, and ensure future land use aligns with long-term cleanup goals.

The site once functioned as a secondary lead smelter and battery recycling facility until 2014. Before that, the site was used for manufacturing organic chemicals to produce fumaric acid and phthalic acid.

These activities left behind high levels of lead and other contaminants in the soil and groundwater. The soil’s lead posed an immediate health risk. In 2011, the EPA issued an order to BRC, the operator then, to clean up lead contamination under EPA supervision. However, when the company failed to finish the work, the EPA took over the cleanup and removed lead contamination from employees’ homes, vehicles and nearby pastures.

The EPA also decontaminated the source property to prevent further spread of lead. The agency added the site to the Superfund National Priorities List in 2017 and commenced a cleanup investigation of the site. The EPA finished its early cleanup activities in 2022. The investigation, along with an analysis of cleanup alternatives, led to the announced cleanup plan.

The EPA added: “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, Email: Luna.Zolymar@epa.gov.”

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

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