EPA Orders CAPECO to Clean Up P.R. Explosion Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Caribbean Petroleum Refinery L.P. (CAPECO) to resume cleanup work in the aftermath of the October 2009 explosion and fire at its facility in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

During the week of Feb. 15, contractors hired by CAPECO to perform cleanup actions walked off the job. This is the second time a contractor has quit work at the site, and EPA is ordering the company to address the situation. The agency will continue to provide oversight of the work being conducted by CAPECO’s contractor at the property. The explosion, two-day long fire, and subsequent oil spill at CAPECO’s petroleum tank farm created a dangerous situation that impacted the adjacent wetlands and waterbodies; the environmental impacts continue to pose a threat to human health and the environment.

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

Under an order issued by EPA, CAPECO must restart its work to repair damages at the facility, clean up oil, remove residual oil from damaged storage tanks, and clean up the fuel transfer pipeline. In addition, plans must be developed and implemented to monitor the air, conduct other sampling and analysis, and ensure the site is safe and workers and community members are protected.

The agency also has ordered CAPECO to submit to EPA bi-weekly reports describing significant developments. Once the cleanup is complete, CAPECO must submit a final report that explains the quantities and types of materials removed from the site, and how they will be handled.

EPA personnel will continue to work alongside and oversee CAPECO in its cleanup efforts. The U.S. Chemical Hazard and Safety Investigation Board (CSB) continues its investigation into the source and cause of the explosion that caused the initial fire in October 2009.

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