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Papelera Puertorriquena Site Added to EPA Superfund List

Release Date: 09/23/2009
Contact Information: Beth Totman, (212) 637-3662, totman.elizabeth@epa.gov

(San Juan, P.R.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it is adding the Papelera Puertorriquea (PPI) site to its Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) in order to protect nearby students, workers and property owners in the Municipality of Utuado, Puerto Rico from potentially hazardous chemicals that may be coming from the site of a nearby manufacturing facility. EPA will now continue its investigation into the extent of the contamination at the site and take the proper measures to address it. PPI is an active facility that manufactures paper and plastic bags, using ink-based solvents in the manufacturing process, as well as storing other paper-based products at the site. The site is contaminated and there is evidence that this contamination has impacted the surrounding area.

“By listing the PPI site, we can better ensure that students, workers and residents in the area are safeguarded against the contaminants coming from the site,” said Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “EPA will now be able to further investigate the contamination caused from the actions at PPI and can take appropriate actions to address it."

For more than 40 years, PPI has manufactured paper bags, including coffee bags, bags for bakery products, rice bags, supermarket bags, cardboard boxes, and plastic bags in different sizes and dimensions at its facility in Utuado. Other paper-based products, like greeting cards and paper gift wraps, are stored on site and distributed by PPI. During the manufacturing process, PPI uses water-based and oil-based inks, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pellets (resin pellets), ethyl acetate, and isopropanol. Many businesses and residences surround the facility, as well as at least eight public schools, which are within 0.5 miles or closer. A university, the Puerto Rico Department of Labor, and the Administration for the Sustenance of Minors share the property with PPI.

The PPI building is within 30 to 40 feet of the Vivi River, which flows one mile to the Rio Grande de Arecibo, which, in turn, flows into a reservoir and a fishery. There are drains and holes in the facility walls and floors that discharge ink and other liquid wastes into the Vivi River and the soil underneath and surrounding the facility. In November 2008, colored discharges from the facility were observed flowing into the Vivi River, and testing revealed that the discolored liquid contained trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetracholorethylene (PCE).

EPA proposed this site for NPL listing in April 2009 and a 60-day comment period followed where the public was welcomed to submit comments on the proposed listing.

To find out more about the NPL Site List Process, visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm. For a Google Earth aerial view of the PPI site: http://www.epa.gov/region2/kml/ppi.kml. (Please note that you must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html. )