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Federal Government Sues Caribbean Petroleum

Release Date: 02/16/1999
Contact Information: Carl Soderberg (787) 729-6951 /

(#99024) SAN JUAN, P.R. -- The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today filed suit in Federal Court against the Caribbean Petroleum Refining L.P. (CPR) for violating water and hazardous waste laws at its Cataņo refinery. The suit alleges that CPR has violated and continues to violate the pollutant limits in its Clean Water Act (CWA) permit, which provides the conditions the company must follow in discharging wastewater from the facility into Las Lajas Creek. CPR intends to restart its refining operations at the facility and significantly increase the volume of wastewater it discharges. The Complaint alleges that this discharge would be in severe violation of CPR's permit. The lawsuit seeks to prevent CPR from operating out of compliance with its Clean Water Act permit. The suit also alleges that CPR violated the provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), governing the management of hazardous waste and underground storage tanks that contain petroleum. In this court action, CPR faces civil penalties as high as $27,500 per day for each violation.

"Enforcing our clean water and hazardous waste laws helps us to protect and preserve our environment," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources at the Justice Department. "That's important for this generation and for all of those to come."

"If Caribbean Petroleum were to start up, it would certainly not be able to comply with its current wastewater discharge permit," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Region 2 Administrator, "This is not acceptable. The company should not restart its operations unless it is in compliance with its permit."

Under the Clean Water Act, facilities like CPR that discharge wastewater, must have National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, which allow them to release treated wastewater that meets specific pollutant limits into nearby waters. CPR has a NPDES permit to discharge into Las Lajas Creek. Since 1989, the company has been unable to meet the pollutant limits set forth in the permit, including those for cyanide, detergents, nitrates and nitrites, sulfate and zinc. CPR has submitted applications to EPA and the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board seeking necessary Commonwealth and Federal authorization to move its wastewater discharge from Las Lajas Creek to San Juan Bay. Until a decision is made regarding a NPDES permit application for a discharge into San Juan Bay, CPR remains subject to the conditions of its existing permit.

The lawsuit also alleges that CPR operated a hazardous waste equalization basin, which is considered a hazardous waste land disposal unit, without obtaining all required financial responsibility insurance. The company no longer uses the basin and has initiated a plan to close it. Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, owners or operators of hazardous waste land disposal facilities must have financial responsibility insurance to cover the costs of third party bodily injury and property damages that could occur in the event of an accident.

Today's suit additionally alleges that CPR did not install leak detection devices on its underground storage tanks and failed to properly close the tanks after it took them out of service. Under RCRA, underground storage tanks must have leak detection devices and underground tanks that are out of service for more than 12 months must be permanently closed.

For more information contact:
Carl Soderberg
EPA Caribbean Environmental Protection Division
1492 Ponce De Leon Avenue
Santurce, PR 00909
Voice: 787-729-6951 FAX: 787-729-7747 E-Mail: