Three men were arrested Thursday and scheduled for court appearances on federal water pollution charges. The allegedly dumped construction fill into the waters of Puerto Rico's Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Photo Wikimedia Commons via NOAA
Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Three men charged with environmental violations for illegal construction and pollution in Puerto Rico's Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve were arrested Thursday and scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in Puerto Rico.
The indictments were handed down Wednesday from a Federal Grand Jury in Puerto Rico.
Rafael Carballo-Díaz and Nathaniel Hernández-Claudio were charged with knowingly discharging fill material from excavation into wetlands and waters in alleged violation of the Clean Water Act.
Awildo Jiménez-Mercado was charged in a separate indictment for allegedly also knowingly discharging excavation fill material into the wetlands and building a boat dock without authorization in violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act.
The DOJ said Carballo-Díaz and Hernández-Claudio operated, hosted and managed a property called the El Cacique Resort in the Las Mareas area of Salinas, Puerto Rico.
Jiménez-Mercado operated a guest house called "Hidden Paradise" on another property. Both properties provided short-term rental units with a pool and outdoor dining areas.
If convicted the men could face up to three years in prison.
In May a new task force was announced to investigate and prosecute federal environmental crimes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The same day the task force was announced, two men were charged for polluting waters in Jobos Bay with construction fill material and with building illegal structures.
The 2,800-acre Jobos Estuarine Reserve is owned and operated by Puerto Rico's Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. It's a natural habitat for endangered brown pelican, peregrine falcon, hawksbill turtle, and West Indian manatee.
It features mangrove islands, coral reefs, tidal wetlands, mangrove forests, slat flats and seagrass beds.
The 1972 Clean Water Act was enacted to protect and maintain United States waters. The main purpose was to ensure the restoration and maintenance of the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of waters and wetlands.