EPA Cites Shell Again for Violations in Puerto Rico

For the second time in less than a year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited Shell Chemical Yabucoa in Puerto Rico for violating the federal Clean Water Act. For this most recent violation, EPA has issued both a complaint – in which it has proposed a penalty of $153,057 – and a compliance order. The complaint alleges that Shell violated the Clean Water Act by improperly maintaining its deep ocean outfall equipment and discharging unauthorized pollutants. The compliance order requires Shell to remedy those violations.

“Water is central to the health of Puerto Rico’s economy and its people, and Shell’s violation of the Clean Water Act is unacceptable,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “EPA will continue to hold accountable anyone who violates the laws that protect Puerto Rico’s valuable waters.”

Shell’s petrochemical facility, located in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, has a permit from EPA to discharge treated stormwater, wastewater, and sewage-related wastewater under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

Shell’s permit allows it to discharge from a deep ocean outfall, which discharges by utilizing a multi-port diffuser – a pipe with multiple openings that aids in the dilution of pollutants. But the complaint alleges that Shell violated the permit in two ways:

First, it unlawfully discharged pollutants into navigable waters for 14 days without authorization. Second, it did not properly operate and maintain the diffuser pipeline for 105 days.

According to the complaint, Shell admitted that a leak from its diffuser pipeline began on or about February 25, and claimed that it stopped discharging from the pipe on March 2. But the corporation later reported that it discharged through the pipeline during 14 days from Feb. 27 to March 30.

Shell’s alleged failure to properly maintain the diffuser pipeline is not an isolated incident; the most recent penalty is in addition to a penalty of $1,025,000 Shell paid in May for similar violations.

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