New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with the Homeca Recycling Center Co, Inc. and Tallaboa Industrial Park, LLC to clean up asbestos that spread from a building in the Tallaboa Industrial Park during demolition to the nearby Jorge Lucas Perez Valdevieso School and a children’s Head Start facility. The building was being demolished as part of the redevelopment of the former Puerto Rico Olefins facility in Penuelas, Puerto Rico. Under the agreement, the companies will remove asbestos fibers and materials from the Jorge Lucas Pérez Valdivieso School and the Tallaboa Encarnacion Head Start facility with EPA oversight of the work.
Asbestos was once used in insulation and other building materials. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to cancer and asbestosis, a serious respiratory disease. The removal of asbestos-containing materials during demolition requires strict adherence to procedures outlined in the Clean Air Act to protect public health.
“Asbestos can cause serious health problems and must be handled properly to protect people’s health,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “The cleanup of asbestos at the school and Head Start will protect the health of children in this community and allow these educational facilities to reopen.”
In November 2013, EPA discovered that an ongoing demolition conducted at the facility was disturbing materials containing asbestos and that proper asbestos dust controls required were not in place. The demolition was conducted under contract with the Tallaboa Industrial Park, LLC, by Homeca Recycling, Inc. EPA took samples within the facility property and areas close by and discovered that asbestos fibers were spreading from the demolition site downwind into the community of Tallaboa Encarnacion including the El Pueblito Sector. On November 27, 2013, EPA ordered Tallaboa Industrial Park, LLC and Homeca Recycling, Inc. to stop the demolition and to immediately take steps to control the spread of asbestos from the facility.
The EPA took additional samples to identify the presence of asbestos that might have migrated from the demolition site. Sampling results indicate that asbestos was released from the facility, is present in the dust in the school and Head Start facility and could become airborne if disturbed. Students and faculty have been relocated to other locations. The EPA will ensure that the school and Head Start facility are properly cleaned and the potential risk of exposure has been eliminated before students return to their school buildings.
Under EPA’s Superfund order associated with the Jorge Lucas Pérez Valdivieso School and the Tallaboa Encarnacion Head Start facility, the companies are required to:
- Submit cleanup work plans to EPA for review and approval
- Ensure that all contractors have the proper asbestos licenses
- Dispose of the contaminated waste at facilities licensed to receive the waste
- Continuously monitor the air during the work
- Perform sampling to ensure that indoor air within buildings meets the cleanup goals
- Supply EPA with monthly progress reports
- Reimburse the EPA for its costs in connection with the work
On February 5, 2014, EPA issued a separate order under the Clean Air Act to the two companies conducting asbestos work for violations of the Clean Air Act during removal of asbestos-containing material at the facility. The EPA order requires Homeca Recycling and Demolition Corp. and Tallaboa Industrial Park, LLC to adequately wet all regulated asbestos-containing material that had been removed or stripped from the facility and ensure that all of these materials remained adequately wet until collected, labeled and contained in preparation for proper disposal. The order also requires that the parties prepare a comprehensive site cleanup work plan, submit the plan to EPA for review and approval to ensure it conforms with asbestos requirements and ensure that future demolition and activities at the site comply with EPA’s order.
EPA has been working closely with the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, Puerto Rico Department of Health, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the municipality of Penuelas since its involvement. The EPA, in collaboration with other federal, state and local agencies, has conducted several public meetings and has kept parents, students and faculty at the two schools and the nearby communities informed.
The EPA also has developed a Web page with information about the cleanup and sampling results, which can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/olefins
For more information on asbestos, please visit our website at: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/