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Vieques and Culebra Islands: An Analysis of Cleanup Status and Costs

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Congressional rept.

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For decades, the U.S. Navy conducted ship-to-shore bombing exercises and other live-fire training activities on Vieques Island and Culebra Island, located off the coast of Puerto Rico. In response to concerns about risks to public safety, human health, and the environment, Congress directed the Navy to close its training facilities on Vieques Island in 2003 and to relocate them elsewhere. The Navy has begun to investigate the presence of munitions and related contamination on Vieques to determine the cleanup actions that will be necessary to protect human health and the environment, and has begun the surface removal of munitions in some areas. In 1974, Congress had enacted legislation that required the Navy to cease its training operations on Culebra Island, in response to similar public concerns. The Army Corps of Engineers has removed some munitions on Culebra to address safety hazards in publicly accessible areas, but has not begun a comprehensive cleanup of the island. The Environmental Protection Agency EPA and the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board are responsible for overseeing these actions. At the request of the Governor of Puerto Rico, Sila M. Calderon, EPA listed Vieques on the National Priorities List NPL of the nations most hazardous waste sites on February 11, 2005, which identifies Vieques as a site that warrants further investigation to determine actions that are necessary to protect human health and the environment. The Governor also requested that EPA list Culebra on the NPL along with Vieques. However, EPA elected to take no action on its final listing decision for Culebra at that time, and reports that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Army are negotiating a Memorandum of Agreement to govern the cleanup. Regardless of the site listing decision, the degree of cleanup on either island will depend on threats to human health and the environment and the types of remediation that will be deemed necessary to address these threats.

Subject Categories:

  • Aerial Bombs
  • Solid Wastes and Pollution and Control

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