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EPA and Municipality of Guaynabo Removing 1,500 Toxic Drums and Containers from Abandoned Warehouse

Release Date: 10/20/2011
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, 212-637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa; Brenda Reyes, (787) 977-5869, reyes.brenda@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) Removing a significant threat to public health and safety, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the municipality of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico are proceeding with an emergency cleanup of improperly stored hazardous materials at a storage facility in Barrio Vietnam, Guaynabo. EPA is working closely with Guaynabo fire, police and hazardous materials personnel on the removal of over 1,500 drums and other containers of various chemical compounds to prevent a potential chemical release or explosion. The site is a residential area about seven miles south of San Juan that is not zoned for this type of commercial business.

"EPA is working hand in hand with government officials in Guaynabo to prevent a release, fire or explosion of hazardous substances that could endanger the health of people living near the facility,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “EPA has taken quick action to protect the local community and the environment to ensure that hazardous materials from the facility are disposed of properly. EPA thanks the municipality of Guaynabo for their cooperation.” Mayor Hector O'Neil of the Autonomous Municipality of Guaynabo said: “Our municipality has joined as a facilitator in the removal work of all materials that represent a risk to our residents. We have made available to EPA all our resources so that the work is done effectively and efficiently while minimizing the risks to our neighbors and the sector. We have made available to EPA both staff from medical emergency services and OMED."

EPA personnel responded on Sept. 27 after receiving information about an abandoned chemical warehouse in the area. The site contains over 1,500 drums, chemical totes, bags and other containers of chemicals, many of which are not labeled. One warehouse is partially collapsed and the chemicals are exposed to wind and rain. Found in varying states of disrepair and neglect, many of the drums are leaking their contents onto the ground. The containers are haphazardly stored, and in some instances have collapsed onto other containers. The former owner and operator of the business is deceased.
Chemical substances including acids, solvents, discontinued commercial chemicals and caustic chemicals are being secured or prepared for proper disposal at an off-site licensed facility. EPA will be sending hundreds of containers determined safe to transport back to the original manufacturer.

Upon arriving at the site, EPA conducted an initial assessment. Once the site was secured to prevent trespassing, the agency proceeded with its initial investigation. The air has been monitored throughout the project. EPA has developed a contingency plan to ensure that the removal of the abandoned chemicals is done safely. Fire department and hazardous materials response teams have been closely consulted and are prepared to respond immediately to the site if necessary. Throughout the cleanup, the local community is being kept informed and EPA is working closely with the municipal government.

For more information about EPA emergency removal actions, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/removal.htm

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