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EPA Reaches Agreement with CEMEX to Protect Water Quality in Puerto Rico; Company Agrees to Comply with Clean Water Act and Preserve More than 400 Acres of land in Puerto Rico’s North Karst Region

Release Date: 05/13/2014
Contact Information: John Martin, (212) 637-3662, martin.johnj@epa.gov

      (San Juan, P.R.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it has reached an agreement with Cemex Concretos, Inc. and Cemex de Puerto Rico, Inc. (CEMEX) to settle the companies’ violations of requirements to control stormwater discharges under the Clean Water Act. 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. As part of the settlement announced today, the companies will provide more than 400 acres of land, which will be turned over to the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources to manage and preserve. The land, which is located in the North Karst region of Puerto Rico at the Espinosa and Maricao Wards of the municipality of Vega Alta, is estimated to have a market value of over $2.3 million. The companies will also pay a penalty of $360,000.

      “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.”

      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 eighteen of the companies’ facilities. The settlement requires measures to be taken to bring the companies’ nine active facilities into compliance, and would require the companies’ inactive facilities to be brought into compliance if they are brought back into operation. 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.

      The Clean Water Act requires that industrial facilities, such as ready-mix concrete plants, sand and gravel facilities and asphalt batching plants, have controls in place to prevent pollution from being carried into nearby waterways with stormwater. Each site must have a stormwater pollution prevention plan that sets guidelines and best management practices that the company will follow to prevent runoff from being contaminated by pollutants.

      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 proposed consent decree has been lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy is available on the Department of Justice website at: http://justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

      For more information on the EPA's stormwater program, visit: http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/home.cfm?program_id=6

      Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and Facebook at http://facebook.com/eparegion2.

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