EPA Reaches Agreement with Municipality of Culebra Puerto Rico to Address Water Pollution in Atlantic Ocean

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Culebra Will Connect 35-40 Homes to Sewer System

New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck announced a legal settlement with the Municipality of Culebra for discharging pollutants from the Parcelas Culebra Lot Development into the Culebra Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. This sewer system discharges into to the Ensenada Honda, the Lobina Lagoon, and the Atlantic Ocean. The settlement requires the payment of a $3,200 civil penalty and the connection of between 35 and 40 residences in the Clark and Villa Muñeco Communities to the Culebra municipal sewer system.

“Water pollution can seriously damage public health and the coastal environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. 'All developers in Puerto Rico must comply with environmental laws that protect oceans, wetlands, lagoons and other water bodies from contamination.”

A December 2009 EPA inspection of the Parcelas Culebra Lot Development and a subsequent EPA investigation revealed that the municipality had discharged stormwater into the Culebra Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System from the construction site it owned, without first applying for the required permit. Under the federal Clean Water Act, pollutants may not be discharged into navigable waters of the United States without environmental permits. The rate at which water carries soil and contaminants off of construction sites is typically 10 to 20 times greater than that from agricultural lands, and 1,000 to 2,000 times greater than those of forested lands. Soil and pollutants carried by uncontrolled stormwater runoff can cause physical and biological harm to waterways.

Today’s agreement will improve water quality in area waterways. Under this project, 35 to 40 individual homes in Clark and Villa Muñeco with faulty septic tanks will be connected to Culebra’s municipal sewer system, which will reduce the amount of untreated sewage reaching Ensenada Honda and the Lobina Lagoon by 16,000 gallons per day. This reduction in pollution will help protect human health, and marine and coral reef ecosystems surrounding Culebra. The new sewer connections Culebra has agreed to establish is considered by the EPA to be a supplemental environmental project, which is an environmentally-beneficial project that a violator voluntarily agrees to undertake in partial settlement of violations, and it must be a project that a violator would not otherwise be required to perform. The municipality will spend at least $41,000 on this project.

For more information about requirements of the Clean Water Act and how EPA protects the nation’s water, visit http://water.epa.gov/

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