Puerto Rico is still devastated by Hurricane Maria three weeks later. News reports revealed that the victims were given water from potentially contaminated sites. According to workers with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Puerto Rican water utility workers were seen distributing water that they got from the Dorado groundwater contamination site, an area that was designated as part of the United States’ federal initiative to clean up dangerous waste last fall.
The EPA is gathering more information about the quality of water from the wells associated with our Dorado groundwater contamination site, as well as other Superfund sites in Puerto Rico. While some of these wells are sometimes used to provide drinking water, the EPA is concerned that people could be drinking water that may be contaminated, depending on the well. We are mindful of the paramount job of protecting people’s health, balanced with people’s basic need for water.
Since the story broke, Democratic representative Bennie Thompson penned a letter on Saturday to the secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke.
Reports of Puerto Ricans waiting hours to receive potentially contaminated water that could have long-term health consequences is beyond disturbing. That it happened on days after EPA warned the people of Puerto Rico to refrain from breaking into Superfund sites to access water suggests a troubling breakdown in coordination among the federal entities playing a role in federal disaster response activities.
Despite these disturbing reports, President Donald Trump is saying that we can’t help Puerto Rico forever. Since the disaster’s landfall many people have stepped up to the plate including Angie Martinez, Fat Joe, JAY-Z and his business companies, Rihanna, as well as local community members just to name a few.