Puerto Rico SWMA takes steps to close non-compliant landfills

Major progress has been made over the past few years in improving the way solid waste is managed in Puerto Rico, according to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator, Alan J. Steinberg. Steinberg spoke about several solid waste achievements at a ceremony at the Yolanda Guerrero Cultural Center. The Agency praised the Puerto Rico Solid Waste Management Authority (SWMA) for developing a plan to handle municipal garbage throughout the island and announced it has secured an agreement with the municipality of Toa Baja to close its landfill.

EPA, the municipality of Toa Baja, P.R., and Landfill Technologies, Inc., have agreed in principle to an administrative order on consent that outlines a plan to stop receiving waste at the main part of the Toa Baja landfill by June 2010, with steps to close the landfill completely to follow. This is the fifth order issued by EPA requiring a landfill in Puerto Rico to close since 2007; the other landfills are in Vega Baja, Florida, Aguadilla and Santa Isabel.

“I’m gratified that an agreement has been reached to close the Toa Baja landfill in an orderly and environmentally protective way,” said Steinberg. “Closing landfills that do not meet environmental standards in Puerto Rico has been an EPA priority and we have received invaluable support from the Puerto Rico Solid Waste Management Authority on this goal.”

The SWMA plan to handle solid waste, the Dynamic Itinerary for Infrastructure Projects, outlines priorities for managing waste in the Commonwealth, which has long been a challenge for its government.

The 105-acre Toa Baja landfill was created in 1994 when landfills operated by the municipalities of Toa Baja and Bayamón merged. Toa Baja has owned the landfill since 2005, and Landfill Technologies, Inc., manages the landfill. SWMA estimated that in 2003 the Toa Baja landfill accepted approximately 500,000 tons of waste, mostly household and commercial solid waste.

Ongoing inspections of the landfill found it lacking operating controls, sufficient security, leachate and stormwater discharge controls, and groundwater and explosive gas monitoring systems. The landfill also lacked a landfill gas control and collection system.

The agreement to close the landfill is governed by the Solid Waste Disposal Act as amended by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA.