EPA takes action on Puerto Rico battery recycling facility

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an agreement with The Battery Recycling Company, Inc. in Arecibo, Puerto Rico requiring the company to prevent lead contamination from leaving the facility on the work clothes and vehicles of company employees and clean up an adjacent property. The Battery Recycling Company recycles used motor vehicle batteries and produces approximately 30 tons of lead per day. Among approximately 150 children tested who may have been exposed to lead from the Battery Recycling facility, 20 percent have lead in their blood above levels considered a problem among health professionals.

The agreement is the latest in a series of actions EPA has taken since becoming aware of extensive lead contamination in the cars and homes of workers at the Battery Recycling Company. EPA is working closely with the United States National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the United States Centers for Disease Control, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the Puerto Rico Department of Health, the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB), and the Puerto Rico Occupational Safety and Health Administration to address health and environmental concerns related to lead contamination from the facility. Operations at Battery Recycling are being investigated under multiple environmental laws.

The EPA agreement requires multiple preventative and cleanup actions by the company to prevent lead from being transported to employees’ vehicles and homes from the facility. EPA has hired an expert to review facility operations and provide recommendations to the company on methods to keep lead from leaving the property. In the short term, workers will have access to a clean area for changing clothes and lockers to prevent them from bringing lead into their homes and cars. The company will install a temporary decontamination station for vehicles entering and leaving facility processing areas. Battery Recycling will also clean lead-contaminated vehicles and homes of current and former employees and EPA will take samples after the cleaning to ensure that the lead has been removed. Rental cars will be provided and employees and their families will be temporarily relocated while the cleaning takes place.

In addition, Battery Recycling will excavate and remove lead-contaminated soil from a cattle pasture adjacent to the facility, backfill or restore the land, and dispose of any contaminated materials at a licensed disposal facility. The agreement also requires the company to reimburse EPA for the costs of overseeing the cleanup work.