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PREPA Sentenced In First-Ever Criminal Case Against Governmental Organization In Puerto Rico

Release Date: 06/11/1999
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(#99094) San Juan, P.R.-- The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) was sentenced today in federal court to two years of probation for a criminal violation of the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section announced today. Under the conditions of a criminal plea agreement with the federal government, which was adopted by the judge as the sentence, PREPA will also pay a $140,000 fine and take steps to improve environmental compliance.

The sentence closes the books on an EPA-launched investigation of a September 1995 sulfuric acid spill at PREPA's Palo Seco facility. On September 2, 1995, nearly 10,000 gallons of sulfuric acid leaked from a storage tank when the valve on the tank failed. The acid was temporarily contained in a concrete retention base surrounding the tank. On September 3, PREPA employees transferred the acid to a wastewater treatment tank not designed for storage of sulfuric acid. The wastewater treatment tank contained over 200,000 gallons of wastewater. PREPA added caustic soda to the tank in an attempt to neutralize the sulfuric acid and raise the pH level. The strategy failed, and approximately 270,000 gallons of acidic water leaked from the wastewater tank and emptied into nearby wetlands, contaminating the water and killing fish and other marine life.

As part of its probation, PREPA must establish and maintain an Environmental Compliance Program, which will be designed to help ensure PREPA's compliance with environmental laws. PREPA will also establish and maintain a spill contingency plan to avoid future mismanagement of spills. PREPA will be required to file quarterly reports with the court and federal government showing the status of the Environmental Compliance Program and the contingency plan.

"PREPA's irresponsible actions caused extensive damage to surrounding wetlands. This was a criminal act, and the federal government will not tolerate such blatant disregard for the environment," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Region 2 Administrator. "On the positive side, this sentence requires PREPA to take actions to help ensure that something like this spill does not happen again."

For more information contact:
Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: