Reference News Release: EPA Reaches Legal Agreement to Improve Operations at Moca’s Landfill
Release Date: 10/09/2014
Contact Information: John Martin, (212) 637-3662, firstname.lastname@example.org; Brenda Reyes, (787) 977-5869, email@example.com
(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the owner and the operator of the Moca Municipal Solid Waste Landfill in Moca, Puerto Rico, have reached an agreement that will result in improvements at the landfill. The Municipality of Moca and Moca ECO-Park Corporation have agreed to take a series of steps, with EPA oversight, which will improve landfill operations, expand its municipal recycling program, protect a sensitive ecosystem, and plan for the future closure of the landfill.
“This legal agreement will improve the operation of the landfill, improve recycling and for the first time establish a comprehensive composting program," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "I applaud this community for investing in a more environmentally protective approach to solid waste management.”
As part of the agreement announced today, Moca will expand and improve the existing recycling program and create a composting program in the municipality. This recycling and composting program, which will be designed with EPA and community input, will be aimed at minimizing the disposal of recyclable materials, white goods, and food and yard waste. Moca will develop an educational and outreach program to inform the public of this recycling initiative, and will include outreach to schools, municipal facilities, small businesses and households.
The Municipality of Moca and Moca ECO-Park have also agreed to make improvements at the landfill, including measures to stop operations in parts of the landfill, better manage stormwater, reduce dust, monitor ground water, and install a landfill gas control system. In addition, Moca ECO-Park will continue to cover exposed areas of the landfill on a daily basis to help control odors and blowing debris. Moca ECO-Park will ensure improved landfill security and will inspect incoming loads of waste to ensure that hazardous wastes, certain liquid wastes, scrap tires, recyclable materials, refrigerators and other appliances are not being sent to the landfill. Finally, the Municipality of Moca and Moca ECO-Park have agreed to not expand the landfill into the old Karst Forest and to maintain a buffer zone where no more waste may be placed between active parts of the landfill and sensitive areas, including the karst forest. The agreement requires the Municipality to notify the EPA if it intends to request permission from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to build a new, properly-constructed landfill cell.
The Moca Landfill has been receiving waste since 1976. Between 1993 and 2009, the landfill was expanded from 20 acres to approximately 52 acres, with much of the past expansion impacting the karst forest. The landfill receives an average of 300 tons of waste per day, primarily from the municipalities of Aguadilla, Moca, San Sebastian, Aguada, and Las Marias, as well as from private waste haulers.
During inspections, the EPA discovered that the landfill lacked adequate security, adequate stormwater controls, and properly-working ground water and methane monitoring systems, and had steep and potentially unstable slopes. Also, the landfill had been expanded without installing required liners, and the landfill did not have a leachate collection system. Leachate is a liquid that percolates through the landfill or has been generated by decomposing waste.
The Moca Landfill is surrounded by undeveloped, forested karst terrain, cattle pastures and rural homes. The karst region contains the richest biodiversity in Puerto Rico, with over 1,300 species of plants and animals, many of which are known to exist only in this area. The landfill is located over Puerto Rico’s North Coast Aquifer System, which contains the most productive aquifer on the island.
The EPA held a public meeting in Moca to explain this agreement and to seek comment from the public. The proposed Administrative Order on Consent that details this agreement was subject to a public comment period. Based on comments from the community, the agreement was modified to address dust issues, make documents related to the agreement more readily available to the public, and to provide increased opportunity for community involvement in the development of the municipal recycling and composting plans.
For more information on the management of solid waste in Puerto Rico, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/cepd/solidwaste_in_puerto_rico.html.
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