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Energy Answers Incinerator Poisoning Main Agricultural Region, Puerto Rico

Incineration is not the answer. Communities affected by environmental injustices since long time are reaffirming their contrariety to a plant in Arecibo. The area already has high levels of pollutants in air and waters and land


Since 1980 the Puertorrican government has tried to instate an incinerator twice, but the project was halted by groups of citizens who fought against it. Energy Answers has now applied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service hoping to win government financing to construct a municipal waste incinerator in Arecibo. Though it’s billed as a “waste-to-energy” facility, the project is little more than an incinerator. It would burn 2,100 tons of solid waste every day, sending plumes of toxic ash and pollutants, including lead and dioxins, into an area that is already plagued by noxious air. Even without a new incinerator, the region’s pollution already violates the Clean Air Act’s lead standard. Arecibo is the site of many polluting industrial activities, including a battery recycling operation, which resulted in Arecibo being declared a non-attainment zone by the U.S. EPA for exceeding limits on lead pollution in the air. Their operation will take 2.1 million gallons per day from Reserva Natural Caño Tiburones and will pollute Puerto Rico's most developed agricultural region with ashes. Energy Answers claims to be fully equipped with filters to control air pollutants but there have been studies that show that this chimneys will leak nano toxins called dioxins which are linked to many deformations, cancer and even genetic mutation. Also this dioxins will eventually land on grass eaten by the cattle in the area and poison even a broader spectrum of people. When Energy Answers prepared its environmental impact statement, it failed to consider the project’s effect on species living outside of the immediate construction site of the project. But the incinerator’s toxic air emissions would travel far beyond the immediate footprint of the incinerator and pose a risk to wildlife in the region’s state forests and conservation areas.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Energy Answers Incinerator Poisoning Main Agricultural Region, Puerto Rico
Country:Puerto Rico
Location of conflict:Arecibo
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Agro-toxics
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The project will have an intake of 2.1M Gallons of water per day coming from Reserva Natural Caño Tiburones. Using this water it will incinerate approximately 2100 tons of waste each day. Their plan will generate 77MW, Puerto Rico consumed(2014-2015) 17,280 millions of kWh.

Project area:123
Level of Investment for the conflictive project650,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Company names or state enterprises:Energy Answers - author
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Earthjustice -
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Informal workers
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Wastepickers, recyclers
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Genetic contamination, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Malnutrition
Other Health impactsCancer, Genetic Mutation
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsbrings a large dept to a country on the brink of bankrupcy
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The process of acquiring the permits and the development of the contracts between Energy Answers and the Puertorrican government was all made in the dark without the consultation of citizens, which is mandated by law.
Sources & Materials

"local scientist against the incinerator", Newspaper article
[click to view]

energy consumption in PR
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protesting group site; Newspaper article
[click to view]

red alert incinerator in arecibo
[click to view]

EPA's final permit for energy answer's incinerator in Arecibo
[click to view]

Energy Answers official site
[click to view]

Citizen's soliciting EPA to not expedite the final permit
[click to view]


By Hannah Chang | Tuesday, October 06, 2015
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:JuanManuel Torres Gutierrez from the economy department at Universidad de Puerto Rico recinto de Mayagüez
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2655
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