Penuelas, Puerto Rico
No meeting scheduled.
On November 19, 2013, EPA discovered that an ongoing demolition conducted at the site was disturbing materials containing asbestos and that proper asbestos dust controls required were not in place. The demolition was conducted by Homeca Recycling, Inc. This company was contracted by Tallaboa Industrial Park. Asbestos is a mineral that has been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, particularly building materials. Exposure to asbestos, which is now largely banned in most materials, may cause serious respiratory problems and cancer. EPA conducted sampling within the site and areas close by and discovered that asbestos fibers were spreading from the site to the downwind community of Tallaboa Encarnacion (including the “El Pueblito” Sector). Asbestos Fact Sheet | Asbesto Hoja Informativa
On November 27, 2013, EPA ordered Tallaboa Industrial Park and Homeca Recycling, Inc. to stop the demolition and immediately take steps to control the spread of asbestos from the site. EPA conducted three phases of sampling to identify the presence of asbestos that might have migrated from the site.
Phase I Sampling: Facility, its boundary, restaurant, residence and school
The Phase I sampling was conducted on November 21, 2013. Samples were collected at the site and in areas near the site to establish if asbestos was present and if it had spread. EPA took four samples of soil and seven samples of insulation material on the site. Nine additional samples were taken using wipes to collect dust on the site, at its boundary and from the outside of a nearby restaurant, the inside of a residence and a classroom at the Jorge Lucas Perez Valdevieso School. The results found asbestos in the soil, materials, and in the dust on the site at its boundary and at the restaurant, residence and school.
Phase II Sampling | School Air Sampling
The Phase II sampling was conducted from December 4, 2013 to December 5, 2013. The sampling consisted of eight air samples in classrooms, using leaf blowers to stir up as much dust as possible. The results of these samples showed levels of asbestos in the air below EPA's health-based screening value of 0.0009 asbestos structures per cubic centimeter.
Phase III-A Sampling | School Dust Sampling
The phase III-A sampling was conducted from December 12, 2013 to December 13, 2013. The sampling consisted of collecting dust samples in 28 classrooms of the school. A total of 84 dust samples were collected. The results found levels ranging from no asbestos detected to 363,000 asbestos structures per square centimeter of area. EPA has used a level of 5,000 asbestos structures per square centimeter of area as a general screening level.
EPA also took samples at a nearby Head Start facility and continues to sample the outside of residences in communities to the north, south, east and west of the activity. Results of this sampling will be posted on the website as soon as they become final.
While air samples show that the asbestos in the school’s air is below health-based screening levels, the asbestos present in the dust does appear to be elevated. If this asbestos became airborne it could pose a health risk.
Sampling results indicate that asbestos was released from the site, is present in the dust in the school and could become airborne if disturbed. EPA will ensure that the school is properly cleaned and sampled to make certain that the potential risk has been removed. In the meantime, students and faculty will be relocated to another school.
Based on the sampling results, at this moment, EPA has determined that cleaning up the school and controlling the source is a priority. EPA is working closely with the representatives of Tallaboa Industrial Park and Homeca Recycling, Inc. to develop a cleanup plan to address the asbestos contamination at the school and the site.
EPA has been working closely with the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, Puerto Rico Department of Health, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Municipality of Penuelas since its involvement. EPA, in collaboration with other federal, state and local agencies, has conducted two public meetings. The first public meeting was held on December 2, 2013 at the Municipal Theater. In this meeting, EPA explained to the community the incident and the actions to be taken. A second public meeting was held on December 19, 2013 at the Tallaboa Encarnacion Community Center. The purpose of that meeting was to provide the community with an update on the investigation conducted in the area. In addition, EPA held a meeting on December 13, 2013 with the faculty of the Jorge Lucas Perez Valdevieso School to provide an update on the investigation at the school. EPA also met with the parents of the students on December 16, 2013 to inform them of the investigation at the school.