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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, LLC in Arecibo, Puerto Rico

On this page:

  • Cleanup Status
  • Site Description
  • Contaminants at this Facility
  • Site Responsibility

Cleanup Status

The site is being addressed by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, LLC under EPA oversight, in two measures: Interim Corrective Measures and long-term corrective measures directed at cleanup of the entire site.

Interim Corrective Measures

Interim Corrective Measures implemented at the site included removal of onsite "hot spots" of contaminated soils and sediments/sludges which act as sources of contamination to the groundwater. Interim Measures were taken to first address the most serious areas of contamination and threats to groundwater.

Entire Site

The 1991 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit, which was renewed in 2000, requires the facility to conduct RCRA Facility Investigation, Corrective Measure Study, Corrective Measure Implementation and ultimately cleanup the contamination at the entire facility.

An extensive site-wide RCRA Facility Investigation has identified the extent of contamination. Corrective action is being undertaken to address the contamination as follows:

  • most contaminated areas of the facility were remediated by excavation of soils resulting in "No Further Action" status for the remediated areas;
  • continuation of the groundwater remediation activities under the requirements of the 1989 Order issued by EPA under the authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) which has been very effective in reducing the groundwater contamination;
  • installation and implementation of soil vapor extraction system to remove the residual volatile organic compounds from the contaminated soils.

The only remaining area of soil contamination is presently being addressed for cleanup. In September 2002 former Pharmacia & Upjohn Caribe, Inc. modified the soil vapor extraction (SVE) system to enhance the efficiency of the SVE system to remove the residual volatile organic compounds from the contaminated soils. The facility is required to submit a monthly progress report to EPA on the performance of the modified SVE system.

Site Description

Pfizer Pharmaceuticals LLC is located on the north coast of Puerto Rico, in the Sabana Hoyos Ward, which is approximately 30miles from the San Juan metropolitan area. The facility is located in an area zoned as "industrial" (IL-2) by the local Planning Board. The size of the property site is 247.10 acres located at 275 to 330 feet above mean sea level. Merck Sharp & Dohme Chemical - Arecibo is located one mile from the Pfizer facility. The surrounding area is dedicated to agriculture and cattle ranching.

Most of the facility has manufactured pharmaceuticals since 1973. The initial production processes included the formulation of raw materials, fermentation, extraction, crystallization, purification, and chemical synthesis of antibiotics; manufacturing and packaging of bulk and finished goods. Four extraction wells provide water for all manufacturing processes.

The Pfizer facility generates waste in the chemical synthesis of antibiotics and other chemicals, packaging of liquid Clindamycin Topical solution, pharmaceutical manufacturing of analgesics, pharmaceutical packaging of medicines, chemical laboratories and parts cleaning machines.

On November 30, 1996, formerly the Upjohn Manufacturing Company (UMC) transferred its operating assets to Upjohn Caribe, Inc. and became known as Pharmacia & Upjohn Caribe, Inc. but remained a wholly owned subsidiary of UMC. On April 2003 Pfizer, Inc. became a facility new owner.

Contaminants at this Facility

Contamination at Pfizer site occurred from former waste management practices that resulted in leaks from process and storage areas. The RCRA Facility Investigation completed in 1991 identified contaminated areas at the site including a 1987 spill from underground storage tanks and 26 Solid Waste Management Units (SWMUs). The spilled liquid hazardous waste consisted of carbon tetrachloride, acetonitrile, and chloroform, and contaminated soil and groundwater.

Site Responsibility at this Facility

The facility RCRA permit for its above-ground tanks and storage system expired in December 1996. The permit was administratively extended for about four years and then renewed in September 2000 for a period of 10 years.

Cleanup at this site is being addressed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under authority of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). However, the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) participates with EPA in cleanup decision-making and oversight. This fact sheet addresses cleanup under RCRA. In December 1991, EPA granted the facility a permit for hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal. The permit included a requirement that the facility cleanup contaminated areas of the facility. The cleanup provision outlined four specific activities to be performed: RCRA Facility Investigation, Interim Measures, Corrective Measure Study and Corrective Measure Implementation.