EPA orders PRico business to cut lead pollution

August 10, 2011 - 5:30 PM

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Federal regulators on Wednesday ordered a battery recycling business in Puerto Rico to cut lead pollution at its plant on the U.S. island's northwestern coast.

The Environmental Protection Agency said a continuing investigation of the Battery Recycling Co. in the city of Arecibo has found potential violations of U.S. environmental laws.

"It is vitally important that the Battery Recycling Company control the lead that is escaping into the air and water from its industrial facility to protect the health of facility workers, their families and the people who live in the area," EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said in a statement.

An employee who answered the phone at the Arecibo business said the appropriate manager was not immediately available to comment.

Lead is a metal that can harm the brain, kidneys and other organs. Children are especially susceptible, and there is a much lower threshold in blood lead levels for a child to be diagnosed with lead poisoning.

The company's lead smelter recycles car batteries and produces roughly 60 tons of lead a day. Its website says it annually recycles roughly 55,000 metric tons of used batteries, most of them from Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

U.S. regulators said inspections found the company's system for detecting leaks of lead emissions was not being properly operated to detect soot. Revolving doors on the dust collection system were potentially allowing dust to escape into the air.

Industrial materials were also not protected from rain and the exposed areas were not clean or in order, leading to potential runoff pollution, the EPA said.