Because Salinas and Guayama are coastal communities, people have traditionally depended on fishing for sustenance and studies indicate that the fish are contaminated with mercury.
Salinas is the site of the largest oil burning power plant in Puerto Rico. It is also in the path of emissions from the AES coal combustion plant in the neighboring municipality of Guayama, Puerto Rico. Residents of these communities in southeastern Puerto Rico suffer from the highest rates of cancer and respiratory disease on the island. Studies have linked the high incidence of illness to the power plants.
In addition, between 300,000 and 400,000 tons per year of coal ash from the AES coal plant are being trucked to construction sites to be used as fill material. The ash is often left uncovered or is only covered with a thin layer of dirt that quickly erodes, leaving the coal ash to disperse in the air. Test results indicate that the coal ash contains high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury and radioactive isotopes. Because Salinas and Guayama are coastal communities, people have traditionally depended on fishing for sustenance and studies indicate that the fish are contaminated with mercury.
We need regulation of coal ash as a toxic waste and that the unencapsulated use as fill material be banned. The Environmental Protection Agency should be allowed to promptly complete the rulemaking process based on the comments submitted by concerned citizens and organizations. We support the EPA’s efforts to regulate toxic emissions such as mercury from coal burning and other power plants.