EPA to Dispose of PCB Waste From Leaking Guam Power Authority Transformers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be conducting work to remove polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) oils from old leaking electrical transformers stored at the Guam Power Authority’s Apra Heights and Talofofo Substation facilities.

EPA Region 9’s Emergency Response staff will be working with GPA and Guam EPA to drain the PCB oil from the transformers, clean the insides of the transformers, and package the PCB waste for shipment and transport to the U.S. mainland for proper disposal.  In addition, soil sampling will be performed to determine if there is any soil contamination from the leaking transformers.

Two large transformers, one at Apra Heights and one at Talofofo each have about 3000 gallons PCB cooling oil and were found leaking. The transformers are stored inside of a fenced and secured outdoor spill containment area at the substations. It is unknown how long the transformers have been leaking, but GPA has plans to repair and reuse the transformers once they are drained of the PCB oil and refilled with non-PCB cooling oil.

Other smaller transformers with PCB oil located at a GPA storage location in Dededo will also be drained and cleaned.  All of the transformers are stored outside, subject to the weather and elements.

PCBs were manufactured in the United States from 1929 until 1979 when their manufacture was banned.  The chemical has been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment because of their insulating properties.  PCBs do not readily break down in the environment and bioaccumulate in the food chain. The chemical has been determined to be a probable human carcinogen and the most commonly observed health effects in those exposed to the PCB oil are skin conditions such as acne and rashes. Other health effects may include effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system.