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News Releases from Region 02

EPA Takes Action to Stop Sewage from Entering The Mavilla River in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico

25 Acres of Land Next to the Joyuda Lagoon Nature Reserve to be Permanently Protected in Settlement with Owners of Shopping Center

Contact Information: 
John Martin (martin.johnj@epa.gov)

(New York, N.Y. – October 27, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached a legal settlement with the owner of the Plaza Aquarium shopping center in Toa Alta, resolving alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, including the discharge of partially treated sewage into the Mavilla River. As part of the settlement, PDCM Associates, S.E. will transfer ownership of 25 acres of land adjacent to the Joyuda Lagoon Nature Reserve in Cabo Rojo to the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER). The transfer of the land to the PRDNER will permanently protect this land. In addition to this land transfer, PDCM Associates will pay a $45,000 penalty.

"Discharges of sewage and other contaminants can damage public health and harm wildlife," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "Owners and operators of sewage treatment plants must make sure they are in compliance with the law. This agreement will help protect Joyuda Lagoon, a precious natural reservoir, benefitting area wildlife and those who come to view its natural wonders."

The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into waterways without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. A discharge permit sets limits on the amount of pollution that can be discharged into a waterway and establishes monitoring and reporting requirements in order to protect water quality. An EPA inspection in 2008 revealed that the small wastewater treatment plant PDCM Associates used to treat wastewater at the Plaza Aquarium shopping center was operating without a permit. A 2011 investigation by the EPA revealed that PDCM Associates did not adequately operate and maintain the treatment plant between 2009 and 2011. As a result of these violations of the Clean Water Act, in 2012, the EPA ordered PDCM Associates to stop discharging pollutants from the wastewater treatment plant. In 2012, PDCM Associates began trucking sewage from its treatment plant to a plant operated by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.

The 300-acre Joyuda Lagoon nature reserve in Cabo Rojo is home to diverse wildlife, including more than 40 species of fish, and is used by waterfowl and other migratory birds. The 25 acres of land that is being transferred to the PRDNER under this agreement will reduce the potential for polluted storm water from reaching the lagoon. The land has an estimated value of $200,000.

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