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EPA Adds Two Puerto Rico Sites to the Superfund List

Release Date: 03/08/2011
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, 732-672-5520, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov or Brenda Reyes, 787-977-5869, reyes.brenda@epa.gov

(San Juan, Puerto Rico.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added the Cabo Rojo Ground Water Contamination site in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico and the Hormigas Ground Water Plume site in Caguas to its Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. Sampling at the sites 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. Residents of the Cabo Rojo and Hormigas communities currently receive drinking water from different sources that are safe to consume.

“Safe drinking water is essential to protecting public health and is a priority for EPA,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “With these Superfund designations, EPA will be able to address the toxic pollutants that threaten water quality in the Cabo Rojo and Hormigas communities.”

The Cabo Rojo Urbano public water system has six drinking water wells that serve approximately 48,500 people. Ground water samples collected found tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene, solvents used in industrial processes. 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 drinking water 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.

The former Hormigas public water system has two wells, Eufracia and Hormigas, which served a population of over 5,000 people until they were taken out of service. In 2006, tetrachloroethylene was detected by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority 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. Trichloroethylene and cis-1, 2-dichloroethylene, 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.

EPA periodically proposes sites to the Superfund National Priorities List and, after responding to public comments, designates them as final Superfund sites. The Superfund final designation makes them eligible for funds to conduct comprehensive cleanups. With all Superfund sites, EPA does an extensive search to identify and locate the parties potentially responsible for the contamination and make them pay for or perform the cleanup work. The majority of Superfund cleanups are performed by or paid for by polluters, not tax dollars. Superfund money is used for EPA oversight costs and when no responsible party can be identified.

EPA proposed these two Puerto Rico sites in October 2010 and a 60-day comment period followed, during which the public was welcomed to submit comments on the proposed listing. These sites are now final on the Superfund list.

For more information, visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

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