The Trump administration is supplying Puerto Ricans with water from a former toxic waste dump, according to a review of Superfund documents and the EPA itself.
It’s been more than three weeks since Hurricane Maria made landfall on the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico. The storm all-but devastated the island. Infrastructure is in shambles. Relief efforts have been criticized for being woefully inadequate. At least 85% of the island is still without electricity. And many residents are still struggling to find food and water.
In fact, some 35-40% of the island’s inhabitants are without access to safe drinking water.
Complicating this humanitarian disaster is one somewhat troubling aspect of the administration’s response.
In an effort to supply the island with much-needed drinking water, the Puerto Rican water utility, Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados (“AAA”) has been pumping water out of a well from the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site, notes a report by CNN.
The Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site is a U.S. government-recognized Superfund site.
Superfund is a program–undergirded by a monetary fund–set up by the United States federal government in order to deal with the cleanup of former toxic waste dumps. A “Superfund site” refers to the specific area subject to Superfund monitoring and cleanup operations and eligible for superfund monies.
Trucks have been moving the water from the Superfund site to desperate Puerto Ricans for weeks. Some of those trucks bear the imprint of the municipal authorities. Other trucks simply state that they are carrying potable water.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), the Dorado Superfund site is contaminated with industrial chemicals, including tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene, which, “can have serious health impacts including damage to the liver and increasing the risk of cancer.”
In a statement issued, the EPA said:
The EPA is gathering more information about the quality of water from the wells associated with our Dorado groundwater contamination site, as well as other Superfund sites in Puerto Rico. While some of these wells are sometimes used to provide drinking water, the EPA is concerned that people could be drinking water that may be contaminated, depending on the well. We are mindful of the paramount job of protecting people’s health, balanced with people’s basic need for water.
It’s currently unclear whether the water from the Dorado Superfund site is safe to drink.
The EPA says they plan on testing the water soon.
[image via screengrab]