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EPA Announces More Stringent Environmental Requirements for Construction Projects in Puerto Rico

Release Date: 08/07/2003
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(#03095) San Juan, P.R. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) announced today that all construction projects in Puerto Rico larger than one acre must now have plans in place to prevent sediment from running into lakes, rivers and streams. Previously, only projects of five acres or more were subject to these requirements.

“As development and construction continues to increase on the island, we must work even harder to preserve the vitality of Puerto Rico’s tropical habitat for ourselves and for generations to come,” said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. “This is a major step forward in our efforts to protect Puerto Rico’s beautiful rivers and streams.”

At least seven days before starting a project one acre or more in size, construction companies must file an application for coverage under a new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Construction General Permit with EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division in San Juan. As part of the application process, companies must certify that they have a written “stormwater pollution prevention plan” in place to prevent erosion and sediment runoff. The plan might include measures such as: building a pond to hold runoff instead of allowing it to flow off the site; installing fences that prevent silt from leaving the property; and avoiding construction during the rainy season. Once construction nears completion, all applicants for the EPA permit are also required to install native plantings in areas where soil has been disturbed.

Under the Endangered Species Act, operators of construction sites must also check with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to confirm that their site will not negatively impact the habitat of any endangered animals, fish or plants in Puerto Rico. The site operators may also need to consult with the National Historic Preservation Officer of Puerto Rico to insure that no historic artifacts or structures will be harmed in the construction process. These consultations must be done prior to submitting an application to EPA.

In 1990, Congress amended the federal Clean Water Act to require EPA to regulate stormwater discharges into water bodies. These discharges occur when rain washes sediment, oil, chemicals, trash and other material found on the ground into lakes, rivers and streams. Construction projects are a significant source of sediment runoff because the soil at these sites is often disturbed and left in loose piles. When rain washes through them, it can carry large amounts of sediment into local water bodies. Over time, sediment runoff can make water bodies too shallow, and can impact their capacity to support aquatic life. Excess sediment can also cause an increase in bacteria levels in drinking water reservoirs and can decrease the effectiveness of drinking water filtration plants.

EPA first started regulating construction projects of over five acres in 1990, and announced in December 1999 that it would expand its coverage to construction projects of one to five acres starting in 2003. Since 1999, the Agency has provided extensive information to the construction community about the new requirements.

For information about how to apply for a general construction permit or to learn more about EPA’s stormwater program, please call Sergio Bosques at (787) 977-5838, or visit