EPA to spend $3 Million to Address Heavy Metal Contamination
(New York, NY – Nov. 5, 2013) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its plan to address contaminated soil at the Scorpio Recycling Superfund site in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Previous metal recycling and battery crushing activities at the site resulted in contamination of the soil with lead and other metals. Lead is a toxic metal that can cause damage to a child’s ability to learn and a range of health problems in adults. Exposure to heavy metals can cause serious health effects. Under the plan, contaminated soil from the site will be consolidated in two controlled areas and covered to reduce potential exposure to the hazardous materials.
The EPA held a public meeting on August 14, 2013 in Toa Baja to explain its proposed plan. The EPA took public comment for 30 days and considered public input before finalizing the decision.
Scorpio Recycling, Inc. was a metals recycling company that operated from 1972 until 2010. The site was added to the Superfund list in 1999 after high concentrations of heavy metals and other contaminants were found in the soil.
Under the EPA plan, contaminated soil that poses a potential risk to people’s health will be moved and consolidated in two areas of the site, a conservation area and an industrial area. Clean soil will be placed over contaminated soil in the conservation area and a gravel cover will be placed over soil in the industrial area.
Long-term monitoring will ensure that the covers prevent direct contact with underlying waste. The plan also requires new deed restrictions that will prevent activities that could disturb the covers and prohibit any future on-site residential construction. The EPA will conduct a review every five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup.
The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. After sites are placed on the Superfund list of the most contaminated waste sites, the EPA searches for parties responsible for the contamination and holds them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. In this instance, the EPA did not identify a viable party to pay the cleanup costs. The EPA estimates the cost of this cleanup will be about $3 million, which will be provided by the EPA federal Superfund program.
To view the EPA’s record of decision for the Scorpio Recycling Superfund site, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/
Be sure to read the first two sentences of the last paragraph of the news release. Any person that generates a solid waste, which includes wastes that are ultimately recycled, is subject to liability under the Comprehensive Emergency Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or as it is better known: Superfund). The goal of the EPA for a property categorized as a Superfund Site is to identify any person or company that contributed to the contamination and have them pay for the clean-up. Apparently, in this case, they were not able to identify any Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs). But if they did, then those PRPs would be shelling out money to the EPA and remediation contractors (not to mention lawyers) to clean-up the site.
What can you do to protect yourself?
- Minimize the amount of waste you generate: hazardous, non-hazardous, used oil, universal waste, recycled material, etc.
- Perform audits of all waste disposal and recycling facilities to ensure they are handling your waste properly.
- Hope you get lucky. No matter what you do, if you generate any waste for recycling or disposal, you are subject to the possibility of being identified as a PRP. It is one of the costs of doing business in the US.
Another precautionary measure: provide Hazardous Waste Personnel Training for any employees who work with, around, or handle hazardous waste or may respond to a hazardous waste emergency. Please contact me for your free training consultation.