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Shell to Pay $1 Million for Water Pollution in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, January 15, 2009 (ENS) – For discharging pollutants into a creek that flows to the Caribbean Sea, a Shell petrochemical company in Puerto Rico has agreed to pay a $1,025,000 penalty and spend at least $273,800 enhancing its pollution controls and monitoring to remedy the Clean Water Act violations.

The agreement between the federal government and Shell Chemical Yabucoa, Inc. of Puerto Rico is set forth in a proposed consent decree filed Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice in the Federal District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, together with a complaint detailing Shell’s recent violations.

“This agreement marks a solution to a longstanding series of serious violations,” said U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg from his office in New York. “Not only is Shell paying for these violations with its checkbook, it is taking steps to avoid future problems.”

Shell’s facility, which the company purchased from Puerto Rico Sun Oil, LLC in 2001, has a permit from the EPA to discharge treated stormwater, process wastewater and sanitary wastewater under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

The facility was not in compliance with its pollution discharge permit when Shell purchased it.

EPA and Shell agreed on steps the company had to take to bring the facility into compliance after the purchase was made.

But the federal agency said in its complaint that Shell failed to fulfill the agreement. Instead, 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.

In addition to paying the million dollar penalty, under the consent decree, Shell now must 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.

Finally, while the petrochemical 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.

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