News Releases from Region 02
EPA Reaches Agreement with Municipality of Toa Alta to Protect Public from Hazardous Wastes
Toa Alta Will Connect 50 Homes to Sewer System
(New York, N.Y. – October 4, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a legal settlement with the Municipality of Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, resolving alleged violations of federal hazardous waste law at the Toa Alta municipal public works facility. An EPA inspection revealed the municipality had improperly labeled and stored hazardous wastes, and had failed to clean up an oil spill in a drainage ditch at the facility. This oil in this drainage ditch then traveled 150 feet into a nearby ravine.
As part of the settlement announced today, the municipality of Toa Alta will invest at least $196,185 to connect approximately 50 homes to the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority sewer system, which will decrease sewage discharges from these homes into the Bucarabones and La Plata Rivers. In addition, the municipality will come into compliance with federal hazardous waste law and pay a $23,373 penalty.
“Cities and companies that handle hazardous wastes must ensure that the waste is properly stored and handled,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “When not properly handled, hazardous waste can pose a serious danger to employees and those living in the surrounding communities. This agreement will bring the municipality of Toa Alta into compliance with federal law, and will help protect local waterbodies from contamination.”
Under the settlement’s terms, the municipality will design, develop, and construct sewer connections for 50 homes in the Mucarabones Ward. These residential units currently use septic systems that have operational problems and are prone to discharging sewage, much of which can flow into the Bucarabones and La Plata Rivers. The municipality of Toa Alta has identified the residences that will receive sewer connections, and has 45 days to submit a work plan for this project to the EPA.
Under federal hazardous waste law, hazardous wastes must be stored, handled and disposed of properly to safeguard public health and the environment. Facilities must also have properly trained staff, as improperly stored hazardous waste can spill and pose a risk to people and the environment.
On January 24, 2014, the EPA conducted an inspection at the Toa Alta municipal public works facility, which is located at PR-165 km. 12, Contorno Ward in Toa Atla. Among the violations of federal hazardous waste law discovered during this inspection were:
- The failure to determine which substances should be considered hazardous waste to ensure that they are managed properly.
- The failure to properly label or clearly mark containers holding used batteries.
- The failure to properly label used oil containers with the phrase “Used Oil,” and the failure to perform the appropriate cleanup steps upon the detection of used oil.
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