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EPA Proposes to Add Two Puerto Rico Sites to the Superfund List

Release Date: 10/19/2010
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, 212-637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov or Brenda Reyes, reyes.brenda@epa.gov, 787-977-5869

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed to add both the Cabo Rojo Ground Water Contamination Site in the municipality of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico and the Hormigas Ground Water Plume Site in the municipality of Caguas to its Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. Sampling at the sites has found chemical contamination that is impacting wells once used to supply drinking water to the local communities. Exposure to these contaminants can have serious health impacts, damage the liver and increase the risk of cancer.

“EPA takes the contamination of people’s drinking water very seriously,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “By placing these sites on the Superfund list, EPA can do the extensive sampling needed to find the best ways to address the contamination and protect people’s health.”

Cabo Rojo Ground Water Contamination

The Cabo Rojo Urbano public water system has six drinking water wells that serve approximately 48,500 people. Ground water samples collected by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) from 2002 to 2006 found tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), solvents commonly used in industrial processes, in the Ana Maria well, part of the Cabo Rojo Urbano system.

Ground water samples collected by EPA in 2006 and 2009 confirmed the presence of PCE and TCE in the well. In an effort to identify the source of contamination, EPA conducted investigations at 68 facilities and collected soil and ground water samples from 13 facilities. EPA’s investigation has not yet identified the source of ground water contamination in the public supply wells and further investigations will be conducted.

The contamination detected in the Cabo Rojo wells that are still in operation is below levels of concern.

Hormigas Ground Water Contamination

The former Hormigas public water system has two wells - the Eufracia and Hormigas - and served a population of over 5,000 people until it was taken out of service. In 2006, PRASA detected PCE in the Eufracia well above the level considered acceptable under federal drinking water standards. In response, PRASA closed the Hormigas water system and discontinued use of both wells in 2009.

EPA collected more samples from the Eufracia well in 2009, and the results confirmed the presence of PCE. TCE and cis-1,2-dichloroethylene (cis-1,2-DCE), additional chemical contaminants, were also detected in the Eufracia well. EPA plans to conduct further investigations to identify the source of contamination in the wells.

After receiving a letter from the Puerto Rico government supporting the inclusion of the Cabo Rojo and Hormigas sites on the Superfund, EPA has determined that a listing offers the best course of action to protect human health and clean up the contamination. EPA periodically proposes sites to the Superfund list and, after responding to public comments, designates them as final Superfund sites. The Superfund final designation makes them eligible for funds to conduct long-term cleanups.

For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for these final and proposed sites, on the day of publication visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

With the proposal of this site to the NPL, a 60-day comment period will begin during which EPA solicits public input regarding this action. For instructions to submit comments, go to: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/pubcom.htm

Comments can be submitted, identified by Docket number by one of the following methods:

Docket number (EPA-HQ-SFUND-2010-0638) for the Cabo Rojo Site,
Docket number (EPA-HQ-SFUND-2010-0636) for the Hormigas Site,

http://www.regulations.gov: Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

Email: superfund.docket@epa.gov

Mail: Mail comments (no facsimiles or tapes) to Docket Coordinator, Headquarters; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; CERCLA Docket Office; (Mail Code 5305T); 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW; Washington, DC 20460

Hand Delivery or Express Mail: Send comments (no facsimiles or tapes) to Docket Coordinator, Headquarters; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; CERCLA Docket Office; 1301 Constitution Avenue, NW; EPA West, Room 3334, Washington, DC 20004. Such deliveries are only accepted during the Docket’s normal hours of operation (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays).

For more information on the NPL Site listing process, visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm or contact Ildefonso Acosta, Region 2 NPL Coordinator, at 212-637-4344, acosta.ildefonso@epa.gov

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