The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a legal settlement with Landfill Technologies of Arecibo, the municipality of Arecibo and the Puerto Rico Land Authority to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. As part of the settlement, the landfill’s owners and operators have agreed to make numerous upgrades to the landfill that will protect the health of area residents and the Caño Tiburones, an environmentally-sensitive wetland and natural reserve that is adjacent to the landfill. Under this agreement, Landfill Technologies and the municipality of Arecibo will fund and implement a recycling program in the city and continue to collect and treat non-methane compounds from its landfill gas collection system, which will also reduce methane emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that, when released into the atmosphere, contributes to climate change. In addition, Landfill Technologies will pay a $250,000 penalty and the Puerto Rico Land Authority and Arecibo will each pay $50,000 in penalties.
"Like many communities throughout Puerto Rico, Arecibo has a solid waste crisis," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "Too much waste is generated and not enough is being composted or recycled. With this agreement, less waste will be landfilled, protecting the environment and the health of area residents.”
Under the settlement terms, the landfill operators have agreed to implement a comprehensive recycling program, as well as a composting program designed to compost agricultural and yard waste. Landfill Technologies will provide the municipality a recyclables collection and compacting vehicle and 21,000 14-gallon collection bins to be distributed to households for curbside recycling. The municipality of Arecibo will establish recycling collection centers in areas of the municipality where there is no curbside collection.
Arecibo will also implement an education and community outreach program to be funded by annual, $10,000 payments over an eleven year period by Landfill Technologies. This program will educate community members on the benefits of composting and will provide guidelines for implementing a composting program in households and businesses.
The landfill operators have agreed to make improvements at the landfill, including the implementation of additional flood protection measures, ground water monitoring improvements, stormwater runoff controls, leachate controls, the removal of junked autos and other targeted waste from nearby wetlands, and the implementation of a plan to properly fund closure of the landfill once it reaches capacity.
Landfill Technologies is currently using the methane being collected to generate electricity. This system, the first of its kind in Puerto Rico, supplies power for facility operations at the landfill. The landfill's operators are working with PREPA to connect the system to the Commonwealth electric grid.
The proposed agreement was lodged yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy is available on the Department of Justice website at: http://justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
For more information on the management of solid waste in Puerto Rico, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/cepd/solidwaste_in_puerto_rico.html.