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Navy Agrees to Interim Cleanup Plan for Vieques Under EPA Order; Some work already underway, more to begin in coming months

Release Date: 01/10/2000
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(#00010) San Juan, Puerto Rico -- The U.S. Navy will voluntarily assess the need for cleanups and, if necessary, conduct cleanups in areas of its Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility (AFWTF) on Vieques under the supervision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The work will include a groundwater study, which will allow EPA to determine whether Navy activities have impacted groundwater at the western perimeter of the facility. Private properties and residential areas are located to the west of the facility. Today's Order allows for full public input at various stages of the process.

"Through this Free PDF reader availableOrder, the Navy has agreed to begin cleanup work right away while EPA and the Navy work out the details of a more comprehensive cleanup plan," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Region 2 Administrator. "The work performed under this Order, some of which is already underway, will give us valuable information about the condition of the groundwater and the extent of contamination in several key areas of the facility. It's a good start."

The Navy investigation will be used by EPA to determine whether or not releases of hazardous wastes occurred and cleanups are needed within 12 areas, which are located within the AFWTF, but outside of the live bombing range. Assessment and cleanup of the live bombing range would be covered under either a future permit for continued treatment and disposal of non-usable ordnance under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the federal hazardous waste law or under base closure requirements, which would apply when the Navy shuts down.

The Navy has agreed to characterize the nature and extent of any releases that have occurred, and, if necessary, evaluate cleanup methods to address any environmental or human health threat that may have resulted from the releases. The Navy will submit a draft work plan for the investigation of these 12 areas to EPA within 120 days. The Order also requires the Navy to present a draft work plan for the groundwater investigation, that is currently underway, to EPA within 60 days. The Agency will hold public meetings on Vieques to give the public the opportunity to comment on the draft workplans and draft reports.

The work in this Order will be performed in advance of a decision on issuing a comprehensive RCRA permit for the continued treatment and disposal of non-usable ordnance by detonating or burning it in designated areas of the range. The Navy currently has interim status, which means that it is allowed to treat and dispose of its non-usable ordnance using general EPA guidelines designed to ensure safety and protect the environment. The RCRA permit would contain more specific conditions and would require a comprehensive facility-wide assessment to determine where cleanups may be necessary.