This spring, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached an agreement with Guanica-Caribe Land Development Corporation to remove contaminated soil from the Ochoa Fertilizer Company “Superfund” site in Guánica, Puerto Rico. Environmental contamination originally reported by NCCOS scientists ultimately led EPA to add the site to its National Priority List for contamination clean up — commonly known as the Superfund program.
NCCOS identified high sediment concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlordane, nickel, and chromium while characterizing the coral reef ecosystem in Guánica Bay. After the contaminants were identified, NCCOS, with support from NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, determined their extent and magnitude, conducted preliminary source tracking, and then recruited academic partners to investigate the potential human health impacts. Studies from the University of Miami show elevated levels of PCBs in bay sediment, fish samples, and blood samples from Guánica residents.
The Ochoa Fertilizer Company site in Guánica, Puerto Rico, consists of two parcels totaling 125 acres adjacent to Guánica Bay. Ammonia, ammonium sulfate, and sulfuric acid were manufactured at the plants from the 1950s until 1968. These operations resulted in releases of untreated waste, contaminating soil and entering the bay where it poses a threat to corals, fish, and other aquatic life. There is a potential risk of exposure to nearby residents from soil contaminated with mercury, lead, and PCBs. Fertilizer manufacturing on the 13-acre lot has continued to the present day.
Under EPA oversight, the Guanica-Caribe Land Development Corporation will remove contaminated soil, investigate runoff, and install source control measures, if needed.