Puerto Rico water utility yet to get requested FEMA generators
SAN JUAN – Of the 150 power generators requested of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to restore water service after Hurricane María, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) has only received three, 12 days after the historic storm disrupted everything on the island.
“[On Sunday], three were received for the Manatí area to address the need of hospitals that the federal government is establishing,” Prasa Executive President Elí Díaz said, Monday, when four or five additional generators were expected.
“We don’t have the capacity in generators to run the entire system normally because there is no need in some areas. The most prone places to have energy situations is where the generators are,” he added.
As to whether he believed FEMA was delivering the generators too slowly, Díaz said that at least “they are already beginning to [be delivered] I’m hoping for that.”
The official explained that FEMA’s generators have been arriving slowly because an assessment has to be made first. To date, FEMA officials have only made about 15 visits to facilities where the generators will be placed.
Before the hurricane, Prasa had more than 1,390 generators for its 4,000 units, but more are needed. The public corporation worked on lowering reservoir levels and hired companies to obtain additional water trucks.
“The solution we have at our disposal besides [the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority] are the generators or an alternate source of energy generation,” Díaz said.
The utility’s chief explained that the generators require gasoline and maintenance, thus customers may experience intermittent service. While FEMA generators arrive, Prasa trucks are pumping water that is then taken to sewage processing plants. Although the law dictates there must be generators at the processing plants, the priority is to restore or attend to the water production plants.
Water is being distributed in order of priority, according to Díaz. The executive said it first provided to hospitals or medical facilities, followed by shelters and town centers to reach communities more easily.
FEMA generators use diesel and are maintained by its personnel.
“They supply [the generators’] diesel and are in charge of preventive maintenance, so we don’t have to worry. Here, for ours, we have designed a logistics work plan. We have people who help us with the logistics of preventive maintenance, the supply of diesel. We have a 40,000-gallon contract for [taking diesel] to the north region and another 50,000-gallon contract for the eastern area,” Díaz said.
Between 45% to 50% of the water service is being provided island-wide, but Díaz said he does not know when the utility’s service will be fully restored.
“We know we are going through a devastating event and that power service will take long [to be fully restored]. We will be addressing requests as soon as possible. If we can address the metropolitan area, we can address the rest of the towns,” he said.