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U.S. Government Calls for End of Disposing Solid Waste at Puerto Rico Municipal Landfill

02/25/2021
Contact Information: 
John Senn (senn.john@epa.gov)
(212) 637-3662
Stephen McBay (mcbay.stephen@epa.gov )
(212) 637-3672

NEW YORK  – The U.S. Department of Justice today filed a complaint on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the District of Puerto Rico that calls for the municipality of Toa Alta to stop disposing of solid waste at its landfill and take steps to address public health and environmental threats posed by dangerous conditions at the landfill, which is being operated in violation of federal and commonwealth solid waste laws.

“The Toa Alta landfill poses a significant threat to the health of nearby communities and the local groundwater aquifer, and the municipality should stop disposing of waste there immediately,” said EPA acting Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan. “The many problems at the landfill are well documented and the municipality must take steps to correct them to better safeguard local communities and the environment.”

The complaint also asks the court to order the municipality of Toa Alta to pay civil penalties for its violations of a 2017 EPA order that addressed problems at the landfill.

The complaint cites three central threats posed by the landfill:

• The municipality of Toa Alta is taking inadequate action to prevent large quantities of leachate – water mixed with hazardous pollutants that seeps from the landfill – from escaping into nearby neighborhoods, surface waters and the underlying groundwater aquifer.

• The landfill’s slopes in certain areas are not stable and may collapse, potentially endangering people working at the landfill and residents whose homes are near the foot of the landfill.

• The Municipality has not consistently been placing required soil on top of the waste disposed at the landfill at the end of each day’s disposal activities. Application of this soil cover – referred to as daily cover – cuts off access to landfill waste by insects, vermin, birds and trespassers and helps prevent the spread of disease, such as dengue and Zika viruses.

EPA is in communication with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources concerning the problems at this landfill. EPA is coordinating with the department in efforts to improve solid waste management in Puerto Rico.

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