Puerto Rico - Abuse of CWA

CORALations corals at CARIBE.NET
Sat Feb 5 12:44:32 EST 2000


    Thank you to all orgs that signed on the letter to Carol Browner. (list
below) There were 50 excellent organizational sign ons including Puerto Rico
Conservation Organizations and Legislators, International Coral Reef
Conservation Organizations, National Clean Water Organizations, National
Surfing Orgs, The Tropical Audubon Society, Center for Marine Conservation,
and a personal endorsement from Jean-Michel Cousteau. The letter will be
sent out Monday and we expect more endorsements from local legislators at a
later date.

     In addition to the orgs listed below we had a number of individual
endorsement from people who work for Sea Grant, environmental
microbiologists and experts from Universities (some department heads).
Experts from environmental and engineering technologies laboratories world
wide also endorsed, as did citizens of Puerto Rico concerned about their
coastal clean water.

[An interesting note is that in the first 5 minutes of electronic
circulation, 4 organizations based in NY and NJ, also EPA Region 2,

We sincerely appreciate your recognition and support on this issue.

Mary Ann Lucking
Project Coordinator


Sarah Peisch
Community Advisor
Centró de Acción Ambiental

....in response to request for help from community groups:

Comité Valle del Toa and Frente Loiceños Unidos

List of Sign Ons:

Centro de Acción Ambiental
Frente Loiceños Unidos
Comité Valle del Toa
NJ Environmental Federation
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
NY/NJ Baykeeper
Ocean City Chapter of Surfrider Foundation
Tualatin Riverkeepers
Rivanna Conservation Society
Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition
Mississippi River Basin Alliance (MRBA)
Campaign to Safeguard American Waters (C-SAW)
Flushing Greens
American Wildlands
Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge
Sierra Club, Mackinac Chapter, West Michigan Group
Comunidades Unidas Contra la Contaminacion
Alianza Ambiental Puertorriqueñas
Ciudadanos del Karso
Turtle Conservation Project, Sri Lanka
Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch, Inc.
Global Coral Reef Alliance
Pomeston Creek Watershed Association
Missouri B.A.S.S. Federation
Surfers Tired of Pollution (STOP)
Wast Action Project
La Liga Ecologica Puertorriquena de Noreste
Proyectos Tortugas Marinas, PR
Institute of Mairine and Coastal Sciences
Tropical Audubon Society
Coast Action Group
Eastern Surfing Association, Inc.
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association
Audubon Society of RI
New Jersey Environmental Lobby
St. Croix Environmental Association
University of Puerto Rico - Coral Reef Research Group [CRRG]
Atlantic States Legal Foundation
Hon. Carlos Vizcarrondo Irizarry, Representante Puerto Rico
Forest Guardians-Watershed Protection Program
Reef Relief
Reef Keeper International
Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust [VCHT]
Surfrider Foundation
Center for Marine Conservation (CMC)
Ocean Futures Society (one page endorsement/letter from Jean-Michel
February 5, 2000

Carol Browner
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave.
Suite 3000
Ariel Rios Building, North
Washington D.C. 20460

Re: 301(h) Waiver Application: failure to implement the Clean Water Act in
Puerto Rico

Dear Ms. Browner:

The undersigned non-government organizations and concerned Puerto Rico
Legislators request your attention regarding an urgent coastal clean water
issue in Puerto Rico.  Whereas this petition specifically addresses one
primary waste water treatment plant waiver application, this serves as a
vivid example of the extent of the abuse of the Clean Water Act in Puerto
Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We have expressed these concerns to both
Jeanne Fox of Region 2, and Mr. Chuck Fox and have received no adequate

EPA Region 2 is currently considering another Clean Water Act 301(h) waiver
application for the Dorado Waste Water Treatment Plant, a regional primary
sewage treatment plant yet to be built on the north coast of Puerto Rico.
This 301(h) waiver application has been pending for 18 years, even though
the statutory deadline for exemptions to secondary waste treatment was 1982.
The enclosed chronology of the administrative record of this pending waiver
application clearly demonstrates that Region 2 has abused its discretion by
arbitrarily and capriciously granting countless extensions to the Puerto
Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) to submit a complete 301(h)

EPA Region 2's inability to implement or enforce Clean Water Act standards
for waste water treatment in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands was
documented in the "Review of EPA's Processing of CWA Section 301(h) Waivers
(Audit Report No. E1HWFO-O2- O140-O1OO482, September 18, 1990. Copy
enclosed).  With respect to the pending 301(h) applications, the Office of
the Inspector General stated that Region 2

 procrastinated in taking timely actions to render decisions or formally
deny Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands waiver requests when (I) applications
were either incomplete and requested information was not timely or
completely provided, (ii) applicants refused to withdraw tentatively denied
applications, (iii) tentative approval conditions were not met, and (iv)
non-compliance with Administrative Order's effluent limits occurred.

Region 2 only denied the Dorado WWTP "first-round" waiver application in
1997.  The Region then established a deadline for a complete "second round"
301(h) application and required final permits and certifications be
submitted no later than December 15, 1999.  The affected community
intervened in the local government's permitting process and successfully
prevented the issuance of final permits to this proposed facility by this
date.  Nevertheless, EPA's Region 2 Regional Administrator has now dismissed
the December 1999 deadline and has, in effect granted another extension for
this 18-year pending application.  This unjustifiable and arbitrary
rejection of clearly defined deadlines  illustrates EPA's failure to fulfill
its statutory responsibility to implement the Clean Water Act in Puerto

We feel that the repeated failure of Region 2 to follow through with
established deadlines for the Dorado WWTP application and the other six
pending 301(h) applications for plants built and operating in Puerto Rico
has contributed to the degradation of valuable tropical marine resources and
has posed a threat to public health.  In direct violation to the CWA,
environmental monitoring of the ocean outfalls of these 301(h) facilities
was not required for nearly two decades.

We ask that the pending 301(h) waiver application for the Dorado WWTP be
denied immediately.  This is urgent.  EPA Region 2 should deny this
application before the Puerto Rico government  issues a final water quality
certificate to avoid expensive and lengthy litigation over a 301(h) NPDES

To many of us, this decision regarding the use of primary waste water
treatment was decided by the U.S. Congress 27 years ago, when the Clean
Water Act was passed. Allowing a new primary plant to be built in the year
2000 was not what the 301(h) waivers were intended for. Primary sewage
treatment with shallow ocean outfall does not constitute best available
technology for our biologically diverse tropical coastal waters with rapidly
declining coral reefs, and violates Executive Order 13089, which calls
Federal Agencies to protect coral reefs.

Your immediate attention is greatly appreciated. We have enclosed copies of
documents from the administrative record and a summary of the abuse of the
CWA in Puerto Rico.

c:   Hon. Bruce Babbitt
     Mr. Jeffrey Farrow
     Ms. Ellen Ethas
     Mr. Chuck Fox
     Ms. Jeanne Fox
     Mr. Carl Soderberg

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