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HEALTH CONSULTATION

FOR RESIDENTIAL SOIL

VEGA BAJA SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL
RIO ABAJO WARD/LA TROCHA, VEGA BAJA COUNTY, PUERTO RICO


BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF ISSUES

The Vega Baja Solid Waste Disposal Site is an inactive, unlined landfill, located in a rural area of Rio Abajo Ward, Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. The 15-acre site is relatively flat and is primarily residential on its northern, eastern, and western sides. The site is bordered to the south by conical hills known as "mogotes". The site was previously owned by the Puerto Rico Land Authority, and operated as a landfill by the Vega Baja Municipality from 1948 to 1979. Solid wastes accepted at the site included institutional, commercial, industrial, and domestic waste. The method of disposal was dumping and open burning on the landfill. Approximately 200 houses are now located on 11 acres of the site. The remaining 4-acre lot is owned by a developer, who plans to build a shopping mall (1).

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (PREQB) has requested that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) evaluate soil analytical data from the Vega Baja Solid Waste Disposal Site. In May 1994, PREQB collected several surface soil samples (top two inches of soil) from residential properties on the site and found elevated levels of lead in some properties. This prompted PREQB to collect more soil samples from June 24 to August 1, 1996, to better characterize the extent of lead contamination in residential yards on the site. PREQB split the soil samples with an EPA contractor. PREQB as well as EPA's contractor used analytical labs that were approved through EPA's Contract Laboratory Program. Based on the results of the July/August 1996 samples, PREQB resampled three properties where lead levels were found above 10,000 ppm. Samples were collected from the same location that previously gave the elevated lead levels and from two other locations in the yards. PREQB also collected soil samples near fruit and vegetables.



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