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News Releases from Region 02

EPA Proposes to Add Battery Smelter Facility in Arecibo, Puerto Rico to Federal Superfund List Land contaminated with lead, arsenic and heavy metals

Contact Information: 
Elias Rodriguez (rodriguez.elias@epa.gov)
(212) 637-3664

(New York, N.Y. – Sept. 7, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed adding a former battery recycling facility in Arecibo, Puerto Rico to its Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous sites. As a result of previous operations, the site is contaminated with lead, arsenic and heavy metals. Before it stopped operating in 2014, The Battery Recycling Company, Inc. took in tons of used batteries each month and smelted them into lead ingots.

Children’s developing bodies are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead. Lead is a neuro toxin and increasing amounts build up in the body. Long-term exposure to lead can result in severe damage to the blood-forming organs, and the nervous, urinary and reproductive systems. Even at low levels, lead in children can lower I.Q.s, cause learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention spans, hyperactivity and other behavior problems. Lead exposure can also cause health problems in pregnant women and harm fetuses. Arsenic and other heavy metals can also damage people’s health.

“Lead from The Battery Recycling Company, Inc. facility has polluted the air and land in this Arecibo community and even spread to the homes of workers.  This is why we have worked extensively to address the lead contamination in this site.  Now, by adding the site to our federal Superfund list, the EPA will make cleaning up the Battery Recycling site a national priority," said EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Division’s Director Carmen R. Guerrero Pérez.

The Battery Recycling Company, Inc. took in used batteries, smelted the lead, and in the process generated large quantities of waste, including lead slag and lead-contaminated dust.  Workers also carried lead dust on their clothes and equipment into their cars and homes, putting their families and others at risk.   

In 2010 and 2011, the EPA conducted a series of inspections of the facility to determine its compliance with federal laws and regulations.  Various enforcement actions were taken against the company including issuance of an EPA administrative order in June 2011 under which the company agreed to, among other things, clean up and prevent sources of lead dust at the facility.   EPA also assessed homes and vehicles of former company employees that had become contaminated with lead dust from the facility. The EPA evaluated 202 homes and 282 vehicles, and the company then cleaned up 149 residential properties and 145 vehicles under the order with EPA oversight.  Following the shutdown of the facility in 2014, the company stopped complying with the order, and EPA took over the work.  EPA then worked to stabilize lead slag piles and contaminated waste water to minimize the most immediate releases at the site. That work is ongoing.

After receiving a letter from the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board supporting the inclusion of the Arecibo site on the federal Superfund list, the EPA has determined that a listing offers the best course of action to protect human health and clean up the contamination. The Superfund final designation makes sites eligible for funds to conduct long-term cleanups.

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups rather than passing the costs on to taxpayers. The EPA searches for parties legally responsible for contaminating a site, and holds those parties accountable for cleanup costs.

For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for these final and proposed sites, visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/current-npl-updates-new-proposed-npl-sites-and-new-npl-sites. With the proposal of this site to the NPL, a 60-day comment period will begin during which the EPA solicits public input regarding this action. For instructions on how to submit comments, go to: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/public-comment-process

Comments can be submitted, identified by Docket number by one of the following methods:

Docket number (EPA-HQ-OLEM-2016-0435) for the site.

Follow the online instructions for submitting comments at http://www.regulations.gov:.

Email: superfund.docket@epa.gov

Mail: Mail comments (no facsimiles or tapes) to Docket Coordinator, Headquarters; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; CERCLA Docket Office; (Mail Code 5305T); 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW; Washington, DC 20460

Hand Delivery or Express Mail: Send comments (no facsimiles or tapes) to Docket Coordinator, Headquarters; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; CERCLA Docket Office; 1301 Constitution Avenue, NW; EPA West, Room 3334, Washington, DC 20004. Such deliveries are only accepted during the Docket's normal hours of operation (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays).

For more information on the NPL Site listing process, visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/current-npl-updates-new-proposed-npl-sites-and-new-npl-sites or contact Ildefonso Acosta, Region 2 NPL Coordinator, at 212-637-4344, acosta.ildefonso@epa.gov

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