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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: PPG Industries Caribe in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico

On this page:

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

Cleanup Status

After cessation of operation, PPG embarked on an extensive cleanup of the facility and former waste disposal areas. From 1978 to 1984, PPG decommissioned the facility and cleaned up 16 distinct areas/units at the site, at a cost of more than $16 million. Cement impoundments, hazardous wastes and contaminated soil were removed. These wastes were shipped to the Chemical Waste Management facility, an authorized hazardous waste disposal facility in Emelle, Alabama. Plant buildings were decommissioned and disassembled; components of the plants were cleaned, waste storage tanks were cleaned of all their wastes and closed and impoundments that stored hazardous wastes were removed.

In 1979, PPG implemented an extensive soil and groundwater sampling program to evaluate environmental conditions at the site. The investigation focused on the extent of mercury contamination, but also addressed volatile organic contaminants (VOCs), specifically chlorinated organic compounds. At all areas/units, PPG took soil samples, implemented remedial activities, and conducted post-excavation sampling to document that soil cleanup goals had been achieved for these areas. The excavated concrete, sludge, wastes and soil that were deemed hazardous were transported to the hazardous waste disposal facility in Emelle, Alabama.

PPG received approval of their closure plans frm EPA in September 1984, at which time the company agreed to perform one year of quarterly groundwater monitoring. The results of the groundwater monitoring indicated residual groundwater contaminated with chlorinated volatile organic contaminants (VOCs).

In September 1990, PPG entered into an agreement with the U.S. EPA in which PPG was to conduct a RCRA Facility Investigation (RFI) in accordance with the requirement of the RCRA program. This order did not require corrective action studies or corrective measures at that time. The purpose of the RFI was to investigate the nature and extent of the chlorinated VOCs in the soils and groundwater at the site. The order also called for PPG to conduct a risk assessment to address residential mercury contamination within the soils of the facility.

In August 1995, PPG submitted the RCRA Facility Investigation (RFI) report to EPA for review. As a result of the RFI findings, EPA required that PPG submit two work plans for the Southeastern (Betteroads) plume and Western plume. Both plumes partially discharge to Guayanilla Bay. The delineation report for the two plumes was submitted to EPA in April 2000. EPA has reviewed these data and their interpretation, in terms of whether Monitored Natural Attenuation is an appropriate cleanup strategy.

PPG is currently installing new groundwater monitoring wells. They will sample these wells in addition to the existing wells in order to collect groundwater contamination data that would serve to clarify whether natural attenuation is effective in cleaning up the site's groundwater.

Based on EPA criteria, and the most recent past sampling data, the concentration of the chlorinated volatile organic contaminants (VOCs) being transferred from groundwater to these surface waters of Guayanilla Bay is not significant and does not exceed surface water standards.

The impact of contaminants within the shallow groundwater potentially being transferred to the indoor air of local residences in the community of Playa de Guayanilla is still being assessed. The initial results are that indoor air quality has not been significantly affected.

No active cleanup of the contaminated groundwater is currently being performed.

Site Description

The PPG Industries Caribe Site is located on the south coast of Puerto Rico at the mouth of the Macaná River at the northeast coast of Guayanilla Bay. The village of La Playa de Guanilla lies about 0.5 mile south and southwest of the Site. The Site occupies approximately 265 acres and is bordered by Route 2 (PR 2) on the northern edge and Route 127 on most of the western and southern edges.

The facility began operations as a chemical manufacturing complex that produced chlorine, caustic soda, ethylene glycol, and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). The raw materials used to manufacture these products were primarily water, ethylene, salt and oxygen. PPG shut down plant operations in November 1978. 

Contaminants at this Facility

As a result of past leaks from process and storage areas, there are two plumes of contaminated groundwater at the site, the Southeastern and the Western plumes. The Southeastern plume emanates from a chemical storage tank, now removed, at the Betteroads area and the Western plume emanates from the former vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) Utility plant area. Both plumes pose a potential ecological threat to the surface waters of the Caribbean Sea, because of the natural groundwater flow towards Guayanilla Bay. The main contaminants of concern in these plumes are: vinyl chloride, 1,2-Dichloroethane and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The highest concentrations measured for these VOCs, in parts per billion (ppb) were:

Volatile Organic Concentration Compound
Acetone 6,300 ppb
Chloroform 17,000 ppb
1,2-Dichloroethane 33,000 ppb
1,1-Dichloroethene 1,200 ppb
Trichloroethane 4,200 ppb
Vinyl chloride 22,000 ppb

The groundwater is not authorized to be used for drinking and the area is supplied with drinking water by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA), but some groundwater is reportedly used for agriculture and other purposes from unregistered private wells.

Site Responsibility at this Facility

The facility closed before a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit was required.

Cleanup at this site had been addressed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under authority of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) participated with EPA in cleanup decision-making and oversight.