Wednesday, January 17, 2018

EPA warns of drinking water not supplied by Puerto Rico utility

By on January 8, 2018

SAN JUAN – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it continues its response to hurricanes Irma and María by working to address drinking water and wastewater needs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as with its hazardous debris collection efforts.

The EPA said it continues to assess the conditions of drinking water, along with the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) and the Puerto Rico Department of Health to ensure supplies meet local and federal standards. It has also partnered with the non-governmental organizations “to assist the estimated 76,000 Puerto Rico residents in over 200 communities across the island that rely on drinking water sources from pumps and wells and surface water that are not supplied” by the water utility.

“In general, and out of an abundance of caution,” the EPA and local government agencies continue to recommend people take precautions when coming in direct contact with waterbodies in Puerto Rico, including streams, rivers and beaches because of the possibility of raw sewage being discharged into some water bodies.

“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 Regional Administrator Pete Lopez is quoted as saying in Friday’s release.

The September hurricanes generated enough debris to “fill Yankee stadium seven times,” the EPA said, adding it is assisting with the management of this debris, including the handling and disposal of household hazardous waste, oil, chemical, medical and electronic wastes.

Household hazardous waste collection in Yabucoa

The EPA collects post-hurricane hazardous household waste in a Yabucoa community. (Courtesy/EPA)

The agency said that, to date, it has collected nearly 130,000 containers of household hazardous, which includes aerosol cans, cleaners and chemicals, paint, and electronic waste such as computers and televisions. Also, batteries, “which have become a major concern due to the large volume” being used by residents who are without power.

For information on making water safe in an emergency, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Making Water Safe in an Emergency web page.

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