EPA orders cleanup to resume at Puerto Rican fuel depot 4 months after explosion

Thursday, February 25, 2010

EPA orders cleanup to resume at PR fuel depot

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The owners of a Puerto Rican fuel depot that exploded in October have been ordered to resume cleanup after contractors walked off the job last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

It is the second time cleanup crews quit working at the Caribbean Petroleum Refinery site, or CAPECO, since the explosion that forced the evacuation of more than 1,500 people, the agency said.

The company apparently has not paid workers, said an EPA official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to release the information.

An attorney for CAPECO, Nereida Melendez, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The explosion caused a fire that burned for two days and led to an oil spill that is still a threat to humans and nearby wetlands and bodies of water, the EPA said.

“This facility is right in the middle of a densely populated community and it is very important that this cleanup continue,” Judith Enck, EPA regional administrator, said in a statement.

If CAPECO does not respond to the EPA’s order by Tuesday, the agency will use federal funds to clean up the site and recover the money through administrative or judicial action, said Jose Font, deputy director of the EPA’s Caribbean division.

The EPA also ordered CAPECO this week to submit biweekly reports updating its progress on monitoring air quality and ensuring workers’ safety at the site. CAPECO also is required to submit a final report detailing the amount and type of materials removed from the site and how they will be discarded.

Federal officials are still investigating the cause of the explosion, which damaged 200 homes and destroyed 21 of the depot’s 40 fuel storage tanks. No one was injured or killed.

will not be displayed