The San Juan Daily Star
EPA contracts with Guánica company to remove contaminated soils
By The Star Staff
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that it reached an agreement with Guánica-Caribe Land Development Corp. (G-C), a subsidiary of W.R. Grace & Co., to remove soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from 19 residential and commercial properties that are part of the Ochoa Fertilizer Co. Superfund site in Guánica.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates EPA’s commitment to having companies that are responsible for contamination conduct the work necessary to clean it up under EPA supervision,” EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. García said. “This agreement will ensure that the communities in Guánica, Puerto Rico, are protected from the potential risk of exposure to PCBs.”
Under the agreement, the company will remove PCB-contaminated soil from the 19 identified properties and will investigate other properties for potential contamination and if necessary, find a method to control stormwater runoff from the fertilizer production property. The estimated cost of the work is $10 million. The EPA will monitor and oversee G-C’s cleanup and compliance with the agreement. The EPA has informed the community, residents, and property owners and has engaged with them at a community meeting.
In September 2022, the EPA added the Ochoa Fertilizer Co. Superfund site to the National Priorities List. The former facility operators produced fertilizers using ammonia, ammonium sulfate, and sulfuric acid starting in the 1950s. The site includes a 112-acre eastern lot and a 13-acre western lot.
While the eastern lot, which included an electrical substation, was demolished in the 1990s, fertilizer manufacturing on the western lot continues. G-C is the current owner of the eastern lot.
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 PCBs.
PCBs are potentially cancer-causing in people and build up in the fat of fish and animals. The potential risk posed to nearby residents by PCBs in soils is currently being addressed through a short-term action plan outlined in the current agreement. The possibility of further investigation and cleanup efforts in the long-term will be considered once the initial work outlined in the agreement has been completed.