Justifications provided by Applied Energy Systems (AES) were not enough, so yesterday the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) fined the co-generator for failing to comply with the preventive measures ordered by the agency facing Hurricane Irma.
EQB Executive Director, Tania Vázquez, informed that to the 25,000 fine, other daily penalties -for the same amount -could be added for each infraction, until AES proves that it is taking action.
In order to prevent fugitive dust from endangering the health and safety of the residents of the communities surrounding AES during the hurricane, EQB ordered the co-generator to cover -with a material resistant to strong winds- combustion waste from coal or the synthetic material Agremax that is stored outdoors in its premises.
After verifying in an inspection to the facilities of AES that the company had not protected the exposed material, the Governing Board of the EQB determined to impose the fine and to grant a period of six hours for the company to comply with the order.
However, it seems that they could receive additional fines as from today, because, shortly after the determination of EQB, AES reiterated breaching all the current regulations to operate in the event of a hurricane and discarded that covering Agremax was necessary.
Manuel Mata, president of AES, assured in a letter sent last Saturday that all the ashes generated by the operation of the plant are kept in closed silos at all times, "with a filter system for the control of fugitive dust ".
As for the material in the surroundings of its facilities, he identified it as coal stones and Agremax, which increases its solidity and weight through constant wetting, so "in case of a storm, that pile would harden even more with the rain".
"In order to comply with what the Board is requesting, the plant should be redesigned and new operational requirements should be built, which would affect the daily generation of electric power... It is humanly impossible to comply within 24 hours," said the statement of AES after the decision of EQB.
For the community leader of Peñuelas, José Manuel Díaz, EQB took the right determination after having "dragged their heels for a long time". He pointed out that AES was fined in 2012 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the contamination of wetlands.
"If the Hurricane comes, human lives are the ones at stake, not just the interests of a company. It is an issue of greater magnitude," he stated.
Meanwhile, in the opinion of Senator Juan Dalmau -one of the legislators who inspected the company-, the fine for AES coal is "a step in the right direction", and validates his claims and "the communities claims, that have demanded the intervention of the agencies against the coal plant for years ."
"This must be the starting point to put an end to the impunity with which AES has tried to handle this issue of its toxic ashes and the effects that the immense landfill of coal waste -which they keep at the back of their plant- has in health and safety of nearby communities," said Dalmau.
In turn, both the community leader and the Senator demanded to intervene the Peñuelas EC Waste landfill. However, company spokesman Ricardo Soto said that all its facilities are designed and prepared to face the possible hit of the hurricane.
"This prevision is taken, not when a natural disaster is imminent, but in the early stage of design and development of infrastructure," he indicated.
💬See 0 comments