Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...
Federal and local officials in Puerto Rico are concerned that underfunded environmental agencies on the island will face significant new challenges as a result of Hurricane Irma, expected to hit the island late Sept. 6.
One of the primary problems that could arise is the failure of the island’s drinking water and wastewater pumping systems as a result of widespread power outages. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon—Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in the U.S. Congress—told Bloomberg BNA that some rural areas on the island could lose power for months as a result of Irma, a storm with winds clocking above 180 miles per hour.
“We’ve never been hit by a hurricane with these kinds of winds before, ever,” Gonzalez-Colon, a Republican, said.
Most pumping stations in Puerto Rico and elsewhere are run on electric power, making a power outage a major problem for water infrastructure. Hurricane Harvey led officials in Texas to issue 170 boil water notices across the state, only three-fourths of which had been rescinded as of Sept. 5, according to data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Gonzalez-Colon said the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, or PRASA, the island’s main water utility, has more than 500 emergency generators at its disposal. However, she said, it’s possible some of these generators may not perform as well as others, making the storm a major test of PRASA’s emergency planning.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it is ready to send staffers into Puerto Rico—as well as any other states affected by Irma—to inspect drinking water and wastewater facilities for damage. The EPA also conducted pre-storm assessments of 23 Superfund sites across the island and plans to return to those sites as soon as possible after the storm to identify damage.Ruth Santiago, an attorney and environmental activist in Puerto Rico, said she expects Puerto Rico’s local government, along with federal disaster officials, to work toward getting its water systems back up and running as quickly as possible. However, she said she hopes they also go beyond simply reconnecting the water to address the deluge of polluted storm water runoff that will be flowing into the island’s aquifers.
“We’re assuming we’re going to have lots of water shutoffs,” Santiago told Bloomberg BNA. “It may be quickly reestablished, but we may have lots of water quality problems.”
She said addressing these water quality problems is likely not something that Puerto Rico’s local government can accomplish on its own, given its crippling, long-term debt problems. PRASA has been unable to borrow money from the private bond market for years and was recently cut off from a federal water infrastructure loan program.
—With assistance from Sylvia Carignan.
To contact the reporter on this story: David Schultz in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)