Puerto Rican whistleblower group demands landfill’s shutdown

Puerto Rico Limpio alleges the Toa Alta landfill contains hazardous materials and leachates that are contaminating surrounding areas.

April 12, 2017

Puerto Rico Limpio, a whistleblowing group targeting non-compliant landfills in Puerto Rico, condemned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allowing Toa Alta landfill to remain open and operating despite documenting alleged criminal acts.

“The EPA has given a green light to Toa Alta to continue breaking the law,” says Hiram J. Torres Montalvo, co-founder of Puerto Rico Limpio.  “This is sheer incompetence by EPA Region 2 and Caribbean director Carmen Guerrero.  The EPA can close Toa Alta today, but they refuse to do it.”

The 53-page Administrative Order by the U.S. EPA revealed extensive details on how the EPA has known about the illegal conditions at Toa Alta landfill since 2004. Further, the EPA report reveals that former Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla allowed the landfill to continue operating without a permit from the Environmental Quality Board (EQB). The administration of Governor Rosselló also does not require a permit from Toa Alta.

According to Puerto Rico Limpio, the alleged EPA findings include:

  • operating without a permit from the government of Puerto Rico, and being classified as an “open dump,” which is prohibited to operate under federal law;
  • no liner to protect groundwater from contamination and no controls on gas emissions;
  • about 30 million tons of hazardous household waste being present in the ground;
  • generating about 4 million gallons of toxic leachates per year;
  • standing water that breeds mosquitos that can carry the Zika virus;
  • trash piles so steep that EPA officials deemed some of them too dangerous to approach in order to measure them; and
  • up to 30,000 children and old people who are residents of Toa Alta face a heightened danger from contaminates coming out of the landfill.

“We demand Governor Rosselló shut down Toa Alta, today,” says Torres Montalvo. “Allowing Toa Alta to continue to operate without a permit and in the face of incompetence at the EPA endangers the lives of all Puerto Ricans. Governor Rosselló can change that today. It would also send a signal to Washington and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that under Governor Rosselló, Puerto Rico follows the rule of law, and is befitting to become a state.”