It has been two months since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, yet water access for many residents remains interrupted and those who have service are afraid to use it.
Quartz provided an update on water service in the mountain municipality of Utuado. The water treatment plant was devastated by the hurricane and it could take weeks to bring equipment back on line, the report said.
“Only around one third of its roughly 30,000 inhabitants have running water, and many are still drinking only bottled water, or using filters or chlorine tablets to disinfect the water from the faucets,” the report said.
Local resident Daniel González said his water continued to run brown even after it had been restored for a week.
“Puerto Rico’s water utility, the AAA, says tap water is safe to drink around 72 hours after service is restored, once whatever debris accumulated in the dry pipes is washed away. The brown tint, said a spokesperson, Karim del Valle, is due to minerals that aren’t dangerous,” the report said.
“We test the water daily and we at the [AAA] ourselves use it,” she said. All but 18 of AAA’s 114 water filtration plants are running, according to del Valle, per the report.
As of last week, nearly 20 percent of Puerto Rico residents still lack tap water service, according to AAA, per statusPR, a website with updates on the island’s recovery.
The water crisis is spurring deep public health problems.
“Since the hurricane hit, there have been at least 18 confirmed cases of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread through contact with contaminated water that can be deadly if not quickly treated. At least four people have died from the disease so far, according to official figures. It’s likely both numbers could be higher because they don’t reflect other suspected but unconfirmed cases in remote areas,” the Miami Herald reported.
Other utility services remain devastated, as well. “The latest information out of Puerto Rico indicates that less than half of the island has electrical power. That means hospitals, supermarkets and small business are still struggling to literally and figuratively keep the lights on,” Marketplace reported.
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Image credit: "Puerto Rican Day Prep 2013," mike licht © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/