US$1,025,000 in penalty and future action to be taken by Shell for water pollution in Puerto Rico

19-Jan-09
A Shell petrochemical company in Puerto Rico is to pay a US$1,025,000 penalty and spend a minimum of US$273,800 to enhance its pollution controls and monitoring to remedy the Clean Water Act violations. This is a penalty for discharging pollutants into a creek that flows to the Caribbean Sea, and Shell will have to pay for these violations as well as take steps to avoid future problems. The facility was not in compliance with its pollution discharge permit when Shell purchased it in 2001. Post acquisition, EPA and Shell concurred on steps to be taken by Shell to bring the facility into compliance. The facility has a permit from the EPA to discharge treated stormwater, process wastewater and sanitary wastewater. But Shell seems to have failed to fulfill the agreement. The company violated the Clean Water Act by discharging pollutants in excess of permit limits, discharging pollutants into Santiago Creek and the Caribbean Sea at unpermitted locations, failing to report discharge data, and lacking adequate operation and maintenance of a discharge pipe into the Caribbean Sea. Shell shut down petrochemical operations at the facility in July 2008, but continues to use its loading and unloading docks and tank farm. While the operations are shuttered, Shell must implement best management practices for the facility's stormwater collection systems and amend the facility's stormwater pollution prevention plan and submit the plan to EPA and the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board. And, if Shell restarts petrochemical activities at the facility, the company has agreed to install a 1.34 million gallon storage facility for contaminated stormwater. Now, Shell needs to sample contaminated stormwater that is discharged into a flood control pond at the facility. The company must install and operate a new rain gauge, which will provide data to operate a water treatment unit during wet weather. Shell must also dredge a flood control pond to maximize its storage capacity and inspect a pipeline that had ruptured every six months to ensure no new ruptures have occurred. The company must develop a drainage map of the area around the facility, conduct a hydrology study of the stormwater collection systems and the flood control pond and also conduct an engineering study to bring the facility's stormwater discharges into compliance.
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