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In a unique action under federal hazardous waste law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 is requiring a wide-scale environmental assessment of a major airport.
Under an agreement with EPA, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority and Allied Aviation Services of Puerto Rico, Esso Standard Oil Company (Puerto Rico), BP Products North America, Inc., Shell Company (Puerto Rico) Ltd. and Texaco Puerto Rico have agreed to investigate soils and ground water potentially contaminated with jet fuel at the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in Carolina, Puerto Rico. In addition, the Ports Authority will conduct an assessment of the underground jet fuel storage and delivery system. The airport is surrounded by ecologically sensitive mangrove lagoons and beaches.
"This agreement goes beyond the cleanup of a single facility. It shows how government and industry can work together to meet the new environmental challenges posed by our aging airports," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. "This agreement is also a wake-up call to those airports that have not already taken steps to prevent such contamination. It gives notice that EPA will do everything in its power to ensure that our airports are operated in an environmentally safe manner."
Under the agreement, the investigation will focus on measuring the contamination from jet fuel at the 1,000- acre airport and its vicinity, as well as identifying leaks in miles of underground pipes, valves and pumps. Leaks in the fuel system will be detected using pressure testing. The investigation will begin this fall. EPA does not anticipate it will disrupt airplane service at the airport.
The agreement also requires that actions be taken if contamination posing a threat to human health or the environment is found. Once the work under the agreement is completed and the extent of the contamination is known, EPA will require appropriate cleanup.
EPA will oversee the comprehensive investigation, required under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the nation?s primary law regulating solid and hazardous waste.
The airport has been in operation since the 1950s and serves as the major commercial airport for Puerto Rico as well as an international hub for Caribbean and Central American air traffic. Most of the aviation jet fuel used at the airport arrives through an underground pipeline from the bulk fuel terminals in Cataño. The aviation jet fuel is stored in aboveground tanks at fuel farms at the airport and distributed to individual airline terminals through a pressurized, pneumatically operated underground piping and hydrant system that was installed in 1954.
EPA sought public input on the agreement during a thirty day comment period and held a public information session in Carolina on January 23, 2003, at which it explained the agreement.