Aside 21 Mar

News from
Congresswoman

Nydia M. Velázquez

Representing New York’s 12th Congressional District • Brooklyn, Manhattan &
Queens

Ranking Member, House Small Business Committee

For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Alex Haurek

March 20, 2013
(202) 225-2361

Velázquez Requests $40 Million for Vieques Cleanup

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) led 48 of her
colleagues in writing the U.S. Navy to ask that $40 million be provided for
cleanup of Vieques in Fiscal Year 2014. The full text of the letter is
below.

March 13, 2013

The Honorable Ray Mabus

Secretary of the Navy

2000 Navy Pentagon

Washington, DC 20350-2000

Secretary Mabus:

As you know, for decades, the U.S. Navy conducted live fire and bombing
exercises on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. These operations ended in
2001 and the U.S. Navy withdrew from the island in May 2003. Ten years
later, the island is still suffering from the after effects of these
military exercises, as unexploded ordinance and toxic chemical remain. As a
result, I am writing to request that the Department of Navy provide $40
million in funding for the cleanup of Vieques in FY 2014. This amount would
approximately double current level funding.

During the 1940s, the U.S. Navy obtained approximately 25,000 acres on the
eastern and western ends of Vieques, which is located about seven miles
southeast of mainland Puerto Rico. For nearly 60 years, Vieques was used as
a proving ground for live fire naval training exercises, leaving substantial
amounts of munitions throughout the island and underwater.[1] When the Navy
ceased all military operations on the island, its property on the eastern
side of the island was transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s
(DOI) Fish and Wildlife Service. The land was designated as a wildlife
refuge. About 8,100 acres of land on the western side of the island, which
had been used for munitions storage, was transferred to DOI, the
municipality of Vieques and the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust. At the
request of the Governor of Puerto Rico, the Environment Protection Agency
(EPA) added portions of Vieques to the National Priorities List (NPL) on
February 11, 2005.[2]

While cleanup continues, its pace and degree are insufficient. Various
areas of the island remain contaminated and have left residents of Vieques
concerned about their health and well-being. Of equal concern is a pending
decision to prohibit public access to certain contaminated areas in lieu of
a comprehensive clean-up. Given the geographic size of this area and the
potential for the population of Vieques to grow, all contaminated areas
should be decontaminated. To ensure that these issues are sufficiently
addressed, the Department of Navy should designate a minimum of $40 million
from the Department’s Environment Restoration funding for FY 2014. In
addition, I request that the Department of Navy strengthen its outreach and
communications efforts to inform the residents of Vieques regarding the
on-going status of its environmental remediation operations on the island.

Ensuring that Vieques’s natural beauty is restored is a priority for all of
those that live and visit this majestic island. After decades of abuse, we
must keep must ensure that a thorough, comprehensive and timely clean up
takes place. The people of Vieques deserve nothing less.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Nydia M. Velázquez

Member of Congress

_____

[1] In this letter, the term “munitions” includes unexploded ordnance,
detonated munitions, and munitions constituents, the latter of which
includes substances contained in munitions that can leach into the soil,
surface water, and groundwater.

[2] The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability
Act (CERCLA) allows the governor of each state or U.S. territory to
designate one site for inclusion in the NPL (42 U.S.C. 9605(a)(8)(B)). This
authority had not been used in Puerto Rico prior to the governor’s request
to list Vieques and Culebra on the NPL. EPA primarily adds sites to the NPL
based on the Hazard Ranking System (HRS), which assesses potential threats
to human health and the

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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