NEW YORK – In a move that will allow it to protect the nearby community, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it will add the Ochoa Fertilizer Co. site in Guánica, Puerto Rico to its Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), along with four other sites across the U.S. EPA will also propose two sites to the NPL, where releases of contamination pose significant human health and environmental risk.
“Today’s news that EPA is adding the Ochoa Fertilizer Co. site to the National Priorities List is another example of EPA’s longstanding commitment to the people of Puerto Rico,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “With the federal tools and resources now at our disposal, EPA is putting words into action in order to protect human health and safeguard the Guánica Bay, one of Puerto Rico’s most precious natural resources.”
The Ochoa Fertilizer Co. site includes a former fertilizer manufacturing facility near Guánica Bay in Guánica, Puerto Rico. The facility includes two parcels — a 13-acre western lot along Guánica Bay and a 112-acre eastern lot within 500 feet of the Bay. Former facility operators manufactured ammonia, ammonium sulfate, and sulfuric acid beginning in the 1950s. The company stopped operating on the eastern lot between 1968 and 1970; however, fertilizer manufacturing on the western lot has continued to the present day. Past operations at the site resulted in releases of hazardous substances at and from the eastern lot, contaminating soil and causing environmental degradation to Guánica Bay. As a result, there is a potential risk of exposure to nearby residents from soil contaminated with mercury, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other contaminants.
In addition, previous studies from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration identified elevated levels of contamination near the site that could threaten corals, fish, and aquatic life. Studies from the University of Miami also show elevated PCB levels in bay sediment and fish samples. The University also evaluated blood samples from Guánica residents for PCBs. The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources supports the inclusion of the site to the Superfund NPL.
Thousands of contaminated sites, from landfills, processing plants, to manufacturing facilities exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will accelerate EPA’s work to help communities clean up these contaminated sites with a $3.5 billion investment in the Superfund Remedial Program and reinstates the Superfund chemical excise taxes, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address legacy pollution. This historic investment strengthens EPA’s ability to tackle threats to human health and the environment, and EPA has already set action in motion to clear the backlog of the 49 contaminated sites which had been awaiting funding to start remedial action.
The Superfund National Priorities List includes the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Only releases at non-federal sites included on the Superfund National Priorities List are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term, permanent cleanup. Cleanup at federal facilities is funded by the lead federal agency responsible for the site.
EPA proposes sites to the Superfund National Priorities List based on a scientific determination of risks to people and the environment, consistent with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan. Before EPA adds a site to the Superfund National Priorities List, a site must meet EPA’s requirements and be proposed for addition to the list in the Federal Register, subject to a 60-day public comment period. EPA will add the site to the Superfund National Priorities List if it continues to meet the listing requirements after the public comment period closes and the agency has responded to any comments.
Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for significant reductions in both birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites, and research has shown residential property values increase up to 24 percent within three miles of sites after cleanup.
Thanks to Superfund cleanups, communities are now using previously blighted properties for a wide range of purposes, including retail businesses, office space, public parks, residences, warehouses, and solar power generation. As of 2021, EPA has collected economic data on 650 Superfund sites. At these sites, there are 10,230 businesses operating on these sites, 246,000 people employed, an estimated $18.6 billion in income earned by employees, and $65.8 billion in sales generated by businesses.
For information about Superfund and the Superfund National Priorities List, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund.
For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for Superfund National Priorities List and proposed sites, please visit:
For additional information and site background, visit the Ochoa Fertilizer Co. Superfund Profile Page.