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EPA takes over cleanup efforts at PR fuel depot

EPA takes over cleanup efforts at PR fuel depot

Owners of a Puerto Rican fuel depot that spewed thick, toxic smoke across the region when storage tanks exploded last year claim financial constraints will prevent further major cleanup, federal authorities said Monday.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it will take over cleanup efforts at the Caribbean Petroleum Corp. site, where a huge explosion rocked the U.S. island's capital of San Juan on Oct. 23 and forced the evacuation of more than 1,500 people in a densely populated area.
"We're not going to slow down the work at the site because (Caribbean Petroleum) says they can't do the cleanup work now," Regional Administrator Judith Enck said in a statement. "We're taking over the work to ensure that the public and the environment are protected."
The federal agency will later seeks to recover its costs from Caribbean Petroleum.
The company and its San Juan lawyers did not return phone messages or e-mails asking for comment.
The first tank exploded as a ship piped in gasoline from San Juan Bay, shattering windows and sending tremors across the city. The fire destroyed 21 of the depot's 40 fuel storage tanks and more than 1,500 people were evacuated out of fear of contamination from the plume of toxic smoke. There were no deaths.
Two months ago, EPA officials ordered Caribbean Petroleum to resume cleanup at the site after contractors walked off the job. At the time, it was the second time cleanup crews quit working at the site.
In the last month, EPA says it has removed some 780 cubic yards (596 cubic meters) of soil contaminated with petroleum. The U.S. agency estimates a total of 1,750 cubic yards (1,338 cubic meters) of contaminated soil will ultimately be taken away.
Once the contaminated soil is excavated, the federal agency samples it and eventually will dispose of it elsewhere. Agency employees are also monitoring the air and conducting other sampling and analysis to help ensure that people are protected from pollution.
Caribbean Petroleum supplies Gulf gas stations in Puerto Rico and operated a refinery at its plant west of San Juan until 2000.


Updated : 2021-05-16 04:49 GMT+08:00