EPA Takes Action to Address Risks to Public Health by Proposing to Add Ochoa Fertilizer Co. in Guánica, Puerto Rico to the National Priorities List
NEW YORK – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is adding four sites to the National Priorities List (NPL) where releases of contamination pose significant human health and environmental risks. EPA is also proposing to add another 13 sites including Ochoa Fertilizer Co. in Guánica, Puerto Rico and is withdrawing a previously proposed site, following the Agency’s science-based determination that placing the site on the NPL is not needed to protect human health and the environment.
With this Superfund NPL update, the Biden-Harris Administration is demonstrating a commitment to updating the NPL twice a year. By pledging to add sites more regularly to the NPL, EPA is taking action to protect the health of communities across the country while cleaning up and returning blighted properties to safe and productive reuse in areas where environmental cleanup and jobs are needed most.
“EPA recognizes that no community deserves to have contaminated sites near where they live, work, pray, and go to school. By adding sites to the Superfund NPL, we are helping to ensure that more communities living near the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination have the protection they deserve,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to increasing funding and working with Congress on the bipartisan infrastructure deal to provide the Superfund Program with the resources it needs to address a backlog of sites awaiting cleanup, as well as additional sites in need of cleanup.”
The Ochoa Fertilizer Co. site includes a fertilizer manufacturing facility in Guánica, Puerto Rico. The facility consists of two parcels -- a 13-acre western lot along Guánica Bay and a 112-acre eastern lot that is within 500 feet of the Bay. Former operators of the facility manufactured ammonia, ammonium sulfate and sulfuric acid beginning in the 1950s and stopped operating in 1968. Fertilizer manufacturing on the 13-acre lot has continued to the present day. Past operations at the site resulted in releases of untreated waste at and from the eastern lot, contaminating soil and causing environmental degradation to Guánica Bay. There is a potential risk of exposure to nearby residents from soil contaminated with mercury, lead, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
In addition, previous studies from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration show that elevated levels of contamination from the site could pose a threat to corals, fish, and aquatic life. Studies from the University of Miami also show elevated levels of PCBs in bay sediment, fish samples, and blood samples from Guánica residents. The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources supports the inclusion of the site to the Superfund NPL.
The NPL includes the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Only releases at sites included on the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term, permanent cleanup.
EPA proposes sites to the NPL based on a scientific determination of risks to people and the environment, consistent with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan.
Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for significant reductions in both birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites, and research has shown residential property values increase up to 24 percent within three miles of sites after cleanup.
Further, thanks to Superfund cleanups, communities are now using previously blighted properties for a wide range of purposes, including retail businesses, office space, public parks, residences, warehouses, and solar power generation. As of 2020, EPA has collected economic data on 632 Superfund sites, finding 9,900 businesses in operation, 227,000 people employed, $16.3 billion in employee-earned income, and $63.3 billion in business-generated sales.
For information about Superfund and the NPL, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund
For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for NPL and proposed sites, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/current-npl-updates-new-proposed-npl-sites-and-new-npl-sitesFor site updates, visit: www.epa.gov/superfund/Ochoa-Fertilizer