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  • The San Juan Daily Star

PRIDCO to reimburse EPA $11 million for cleanup at Maunabo Superfund site


By THE STAR STAFF


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a settlement with the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (PRIDCO) for the reimbursement of $11 million in costs the EPA incurred in cleaning up contamination at the Maunabo Groundwater Superfund Site in Puerto Rico.


“We are pleased to have reached a settlement with the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company that holds it accountable -- not the taxpayer -- for the cleanup of contamination at its property and protects the Maunabo community,” EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. García said in a statement issued late Wednesday. “This settlement reimburses EPA for its work in assessing the contamination, designing the remedy and cleaning up the groundwater contamination.”


The Maunabo Groundwater Contamination Site is located in the southeastern coastal area of Puerto Rico, where the groundwater is contaminated with various types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including tetrachloroethene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), and cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cis-1,2-DCE). The site includes four wells that provide drinking water to the Maunabo Urbano public water system, which is currently getting its drinking water from safe sources. The EPA selected, designed and implemented the remedy for the site through its Superfund program.


The EPA determined that one or more of the tenants at an industrial park owned by PRIDCO was a source of the VOC contamination. In September 2015, PRIDCO declined to participate in settlement discussions, leading the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a civil lawsuit in federal district court in Puerto Rico to recover EPA’s costs for cleaning up the site. The DOJ argued that PRIDCO, as the owner of the industrial park, was legally responsible for the contaminated groundwater, and the court agreed, awarding EPA its past response costs and holding PRIDCO accountable for future costs as well. PRIDCO appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which upheld the district court’s ruling. The settlement resolves PRIDCO’s current financial obligations for the site as a result of the lawsuit.


Under the terms of the settlement, PRIDCO will pay the EPA a total of $11 million over seven years to cover all of the agency’s past response costs and interest. The payment will reimburse the EPA for the funds it spent cleaning up the Maunabo Groundwater Superfund site and ensuring that the drinking water in the affected communities is safe for residents.

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