News Feature | January 11, 2018

Thousands Of Puerto Ricans Still Waiting On Clean Water

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Four months after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, many residents still lack access to clean water.

The U.S. EPA released an update on conditions in Puerto Rico on January 5. The agency said it is still working to address the island’s water and wastewater needs.

“Per the agency, some 100 days after the storm, approximately 76,000 residents in the United States commonwealth currently rely on drinking water that might be contaminated with raw sewage,” Color Lines reported.

“The impacted residents rely on water from wells and other sources not supplied by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, which, the EPA says, currently monitors drinking water quality across the island for safety,” the report said.

The statement from the EPA cautioned against directly touching streams, rivers, and beaches in Puerto Rico due to threat of raw sewage contamination.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released new data this month on water contamination in Puerto Rico showing the stark public health threat that resulted from the hurricane.

“Over two-thirds of the population of Puerto Rico was at potential risk of exposure to bacterial contamination in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, according to government test results obtained by NRDC,” the report said.

“More than 2.3 million Puerto Rican residents were served by water systems which drew at least one sample testing positive for total coliforms or E. coli after Maria devastated the island in September,” it continued.

The report noted that 70 percent of Puerto Rico's water treatment and distribution systems were affected by the hurricane.

The update from the EPA said the agency remains committed to recovery efforts on the island.

“People all across the islands still face daily challenges to secure clean drinking water, segregate hazardous debris in their homes and neighborhoods and restore their quality of life. EPA has collected about 130,000 containers of hazardous materials, responded to oil spills and is addressing sewer and drinking water infrastructure problems that still impact communities,” EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez said in the statement.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.