Vieques Landfill Fire

 
Site Contact:
Carlos Huertas
OSC

(huertas-hernandez.carlos@epa.gov)

Site Location:
Road 200
Vieques, PR 00765
response.epa.gov/viequeslandfill
NRC#: 1245463, 1245613

May 2019

A landfill fire has been on-going at the Vieques Landfill since late Friday, May 10, 2019. The fire, believed to be arson, started in a staging area created for debris from Hurricane Maria that contains cars, white goods, propane tanks, possibly low-grade military munitions, and other scrap metal. There is very limited fire fighting equipment on Vieques and the ferry from San Juan is no longer operating, so inter-island logistics is hindering the deployment of additional assets. The REOC received numerous phone complaints from residents impacted by the smoke and fumes, and many are complaining of headaches, difficulty breathing, and runny eyes. On Tuesday, May 14, 2019, PREQB (Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board) requested EPA assistance with air monitoring within the vicinity of the plume and the impacted neighborhood located to the northwest of the site. EPA's ERT along with an OSC will arrive on Vieques on Thursday, May 16, 2019 to begin air monitoring operations.

September 2021

The Vieques Fire Department responded to a fire on September 5, 2021 at the Vieques Landfill located at Sector Puerto Diablo, Vieques, Puerto Rico. The fire is located in an area composed mostly of vegetative debris. It is unknown at this time how long it may take to extinguish the fire; however, the fire department has speculated that it may take several days or weeks.

On September 17, 2021, the Puerto Rico Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DNER) and the Vieques Municipality requested EPA assistance with air monitoring in the local community. The Vieques Fire Department is no longer on-site. 

On September 18, 2021Two EPA START contractors to Vieques and the EPA OSC arrived on on September 19, 2021.  

On September 19, 2021, Fire Suppression continued.  EPA monitored (6) locations during the morning of September 19, 2021. Locations included: Isabel II (ferry dock), La Esperanza (commercial property-hotel), Monte Carmelo (PRASA water storage tank), Villa Borinquen (residential property), Santa Maria (community center/animal rescue building) and the landfill administration building.  Air monitoring locations were selected based on information provided by State agencies and citizen complains. Periodic air monitoring is being conducted utilizing calibrated Multi-RAE Plus with monitors that can detect Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Carbon Monoxide (CO), and Hydrogen Sulfide (H2).

Data Trends: Volatile organic compounds and Carbon Monoxide were only being detected, periodically, at levels below 10 parts per billion (ppb) (below background levels) at the Monte Carmelo and Villa Borinquen locations.

September 20, 2021 @ 12:00 Eastern: Fire suppression activities  were completed at the Site.

EPA  continued to monitor (6) locations through the morning of September 20, 2021. Locations included: Isabel II (ferry dock), La Esperanza (commercial property-hotel), Monte Carmelo (PRASA water storage tank), Villa Borinquen (residential property), Santa Maria (community center/animal rescue building) and the landfill administration building.  Air monitoring locations were selected based on information provided by State agencies and citizen complains. Periodic air monitoring is being conducted utilizing calibrated Multi-RAE Plus with monitors that can detect Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Carbon Monoxide (CO), and Hydrogen Sulfide (H2).

Volatile organic compounds and Carbon Monoxide are only being detected, periodically, at levels below background readings at the Monte Carmelo and Villa Borinquen locations.

At 12:00 on September 20, 2021, there was no visible smoke coming from the landfill but a slight burnt material odor still persist.

The EPA OSC met with the Mayor of Vieques and Vieques Emergency Management in the late morning of September 20, 2021.  Due to the fact that the fire appears to be out, there is no visible smoke observed, and air survey readings are at background levels, it was determined that there is no further EPA assistance required. 

The OSC and two START personnel departed Vieques  to Puerto Rico around 14:00 on September 20, 2021.