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Municipality of Lajas Agrees to Environmental Improvements at Landfill; Agreement with EPA Sets Timetable for Landfill’s Closure and Establishes Local Recycling Program; Public Meeting to Be Held on August 28

Release Date: 08/11/2014
Contact Information: John Martin, (212) 637-3662, martin.johnj@epa.gov

      (New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Municipality of Lajas, Puerto Rico, have reached a legal agreement that will result in numerous upgrades at the Lajas Landfill, and a plan to permanently close the landfill by July 2017. Lajas will also implement a recycling and composting program.

      “This agreement sets the Municipality of Lajas on the right course— more material will be recycled and composted, and more will be done to protect the environment and the health of area residents,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck.

      As part of the agreement announced today, Lajas will establish regular curbside pickup of recyclable materials, scrap tires, certain auto parts, white goods, and food and yard waste throughout urban areas of the municipality, and will establish recycling drop-off centers in rural areas. The municipality will create a pilot composting program for the collection of compostable materials. Lajas will use information from this pilot project to establish a permanent composting program by mid-2015.

      The Municipality of Lajas has also agreed to make improvements at its landfill, including covering exposed areas on a daily basis, implementing measures to reduce stormwater, and reducing the amount of dust at the landfill. In addition, the municipality will level out steep slopes at the landfill, which will decrease the chances of a landslide and runoff. The municipality will improve the landfill’s security, and will inspect all incoming loads of waste to the landfill to prevent the disposal of hazardous wastes, certain liquid wastes, scrap ties, recyclable materials, and refrigerators and other appliances. Finally, Lajas has agreed to close all areas of the landfill that are currently being used by July 1, 2017. The closed areas of the landfill will instill a cap, which will reduce the amount of rainwater entering the landfill, as well as measures to reduce methane and other landfill gas emissions from rotting waste and collect leachate. Leachate is a liquid that has percolated through or been generated by decomposition of waste material.

      The Lajas Municipal Solid Waste Landfill has been receiving waste since 1977. The majority of the waste deposited in the landfill includes solid household waste, as well as commercial solid waste and construction and demolition debris. Following inspections, the EPA determined that the landfill lacked proper run-off controls, a leachate collection system, and operational groundwater and methane monitoring systems. The landfill has extremely steep and potentially unstable slopes.

      The proposed Administrative Order on Consent that details this agreement is subject to a public comment period that ends on August 31.

      The EPA will hold a public meeting on August 28, 2014 to explain this agreement and is encouraging public comments. The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. at Avenida 1ero de Julio de 1883 in Barrio Sabana Yeguas, Lajas.

      Written comments may be mailed to:
      Meghan LaReau
      U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 2
      290 Broadway – 21st Floor
      New York, N.Y. 10007-1866
      212-637-4067
      lareau.meghan@epa.gov