Hazardous Waste Cleanup: GE Residential Products Incorporated in Palmer Ward, Puerto Rico
On this page:
- Cleanup Status
- Site Description
- Contaminants at this Facility
- Site Responsibility
The RCRA Facility Assessment (RFA) completed in August 1986 on behalf of EPA identified 13 solid waste management units (SWMUs) at the facility. Furthermore, two Areas of Concern (AOC) were identified in the 1998 RCRA Post-Closure Permit based on data collected during the 1986 RFA sampling visit, and past operational practices. Under the 1998 RCRA Post-closure permit, Caribe GE has now completed required RCRA Facility Investigations (RFIs) at eight solid waste management units (SWMUs) and two Areas of Concern (AOCs).
Because Caribe GE did not submit a Part B application for a permit to continue to operate the two electro-plating wastewater surface impoundments (lagoons), those surface impoundments (lagoons) lost their authorization for continued operation under interim status on November 8, 1985, pursuant to 40 CFR § 270.73.
According to information supplied to EPA by Caribe GE, the surface impoundments (lagoons) did not receive any wastes after December 1981. However, RCRA closure was not implemented within the 90 day time period following receipt of the final volume of hazardous waste as required by RCRA. Caribe GE subsequently submitted a RCRA required "Closure Plan" for the surface impoundments (lagoons) and it was approved by EPA, and publicly noticed in 1989.
Between November 1989 and September 1991, under the approved "Closure Plan" Caribe GE removed all liquids, sludge, and sludge residues from the two former electro-plating wastewater surface impoundments (lagoons), and either removed, or decontaminated and left in-place, all associated piping and related structures. The surface impoundments were then filled in with low permeability, clean fill material, which was then compacted and graded, as required under the approved "Closure Plan".
On January 7, 1992, Caribe GE submitted a Certification of Closure to EPA for the two former electro-plating wastewater surface impoundments (lagoons).
In 2003, Caribe GE ceased all manufacturing and waste management activities at the Facility, and in 2004 sold that portion of the Facility located on the west side of State Road 191 to the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO). In conjunction with that sale, Caribe GE performed extensive groundwater investigations on the portion of the facility on the west side of State Road 191.
Based on those investigations, Caribe GE discovered chlorinated solvent plumes in the groundwater underlying the portion of the Facility on the west side of State Road 191, which did not appear to be associated with any solid waste management units (SWMUs) or areas of concern (AOCs) identified under the 1998 Post-closure permit.
In September 2004, Caribe GE submitted a report to EPA on those investigations, and recommended that chlorinated solvent plumes in the groundwater underlying the PRIDCO owned portion of the facility be classified as a new Area of Concern (i.e., AOC #3).
Since then, Caribe GE has performed several rounds of additional groundwater and other investigations regarding chlorinated solvent plumes in the groundwater underlying the portion of the facility, now owned by PRIDCO, located on the west side of State Road 191. GE is slated to submit to EPA by September 29, 2008 a draft proposal for a corrective measure remedy for the chlorinated solvent plumes constituting AOC #3. On July 9, 2008, GE submitted a letter to EPA confirming that, with the expiration of the RCRA Post-Closure permit on May 17, 2008, GE would continue implementation of all required investigations and remedial measures for AOC #3.
The GE Residential Products, Inc., former Caribe General Electric Products, Inc. (Caribe GE) is an electro-plating facility, located in Palmer Ward, Municipality of Rio Grande, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The facility is located on both sides of State Road 191, adjacent to the Mameyes River which forms the Facility's southeast boundary. The Rio Mameyes flows north and drains an area of approximately 17 square miles from the flanks of the Luquillo National Rain Forest ("El Yunque") to the Atlantic Ocean. The surface waters of the Rio Mameyes are used as a municipal drinking water source, at a municipal intake point located approximately 2,000 feet downstream (i.e. northeast) of the GE facility.
The facility commenced operations in 1956. From 1956 until 1981 wastewaters from the facility's electroplating (metal plating) operations, located in Building No.1 on the west side of State Road 191, were transferred via underground piping from the electroplating area to two surface impoundments (Lagoons A and B), located on the east side of State Road 191.
The wastewaters were temporarily held in Lagoons A and B to allow particulates to settle out and accumulated as a sludge. This sludge is listed as EPA hazardous waste number F006. Following settling of the sludge, the wastewaters were formerly discharged by underground piping to the Rio Mameyes. The two (closed) wastewater treatment lagoons (surface impoundments) were unlined.
Besides the Rio Mameyes, the areas surrounding the facility include agricultural fields, dense overgrown areas (non-cultivated), and residential housing located approximately 1000 feet north of the facility, in the Mameyes development (Palmer Post Office). No other manufacturing facilities are nearby.
Contaminants at this Facility
In accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Caribe GE filed a Notification of Hazardous Waste Activity in August 1980, and a Part A Permit Application, to conduct hazardous waste Treatment, Storage (greater than 90 days), or Disposal activities (TSD activities), in November 1980. The November 1980 Part A Permit Application indicated that 50,000 pounds (25 tons) of wastewater treatment sludges from electroplating operations containing nickel and cyanide (EPA hazardous waste number F006) were generated annually in the two surface impoundments (lagoons), located in the portion of the facility on the east side of State Road 191.
EPA hazardous waste number F006 contains the following hazardous constituents: cadmium, hexavalent chromium, nickel, and cyanide. Releases of cadmium have impacted the groundwater underlying the two surface impoundments (lagoons), located on the east side of State Road 191. However, based on the April 1999 report prepared by Caribe GE on "Assessment of Nature and Extent of Dissolved Cadmium in Groundwater" (required under the 1998 RCRA Post-closure permit), and on-going semi-annual groundwater monitoring required under the 1998 RCRA Post-closure permit, those cadmium releases to the groundwater have not migrated off of the Caribe GE property at concentration levels that might pose an unacceptable risk to human health.
In 2003, Caribe GE closed its operations at the facility, and in 2004 sold that portion of the facility located on the west side of State Road 191 to the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO). In conjunction with the sale, Caribe GE performed extensive groundwater investigations on the portion of the facility on the west side of State Road 191.
Based on those investigations, Caribe GE discovered chlorinated solvent plumes in the groundwater underlying the portion of the Facility on the west side of State Road 191, which were not associated with any SWMUs or AOCs addressed under the 1998 Post-closure permit. The chlorinated solvent constituents in the groundwater include: cis-1,2-Dichloroethene ("DCE"), tetrachloroethene "PCE"), and trichloroethene ("TCE").
Since 2004, Caribe GE has performed extensive groundwater investigations and submitted the results to EPA. The chlorinated solvent constituents in the groundwater appear to discharge to the surface waters of the Rio Mameyes; however, based on the information currently available to EPA and current site usage, no unacceptable risks to human health are indicated.
Nevertheless, EPA has requested Caribe GE to conduct further investigations regarding the potential impact of the chlorinated solvent contaminated groundwater on the surface waters of the Rio Mameyes. EPA also expects Caribe GE to submit in 2007 a proposed corrective action plan/remedy for the chlorinated solvent plumes under the PRIDCO-owned portion of the former facility, based on monitored natural attenuation ("MNA").
Site Responsibility at this Facility
Pursuant to RCRA, owners or operators of surface impoundments that certified closure under § 265 (Interim Status) standards after January 26, 1983, must have a post-closure permit, unless they can either:
- demonstrate to EPA that the closure met not only the performance standards at 40 CFR § 265.111, applicable to Interim Status facilities, but, pursuant to § 270.1©)(5), also met the specific standards for closure of surface impoundments given at 40 CFR § 264.228, or
- obtain a closure equivalency determination from the Director pursuant to § 270.1(c)(6).
EPA did not approve a determination that Caribe GE's implemented closure activities met the requirements of either one listed above. Therefore, Caribe GE was required to obtain a Post-closure permit, and is subject to applicable 40 CFR Part 264 Groundwater Monitoring, Unsaturated Zone Monitoring, Corrective Action, and Post-closure Care Requirements. Caribe GE submitted a Part B Application for a Post-closure permit on July 30, 1996.
Public Notice of the Draft Post-closure Permit was given on July 31, 1997 in Spanish and English in two Puerto Rico newspapers (El Vocero and The San Juan Star). The Public Notice informed the public that EPA had prepared a draft RCRA Post-Closure Permit to be issued to Caribe General Electric Products for its facility located in Palmer, Puerto Rico, and advised the public of a 45 day Public Comment Period.
The Final RCRA Post-Closure Permit which EPA issued to Caribe GE took effect on May 18, 1998, for a term of 10 years. The RCRA post-closure permit expired on May 17, 2008. In July 2008, GE submitted a request to EPA to terminate further post-closure care requirements for the two closed surface impoundments. Because more than ten years of post-closure monitoring of the groundwater surrounding the two closed surface impoundments has shown no unacceptable releases of hazardous waste or constituents, EPA expects to approve GE’s request to terminate further post-closure care.
The site is being cleaned up by the GE, under EPA oversight. However, the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) participates with EPA in cleanup decision-making and oversight.