Article By: Max Greenwood
Some Puerto Rico residents are turning to a hazardous waste site for drinking water as the island continues to reel from Hurricane Maria.More than 3 weeks after Hurricane Maria tore across the island, many residents – U.S. citizens – remain w/out access to clean drinking water. As of Saturday evening, service had been restored to about 64% of the island. But according to a CNN report, some residents are seeking water from potentially risky sources. That includes the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site, an area designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a so-called Superfund site.
Superfund sites are areas considered so badly contaminated that they are subject to special federal oversight & cleanup efforts. The Dorado site was added to the list in 2016. On Friday, according to CNN, workers from Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AAA), the Puerto Rican water utility, pumped water from a well at the Dorado site & distributed it to storm-stricken residents.
According to the EPA, groundwater at the Dorado site is “contaminated w/organic based solvents, primarily tetrachloroethylene (PCE) & trichloroethylene (TCE),” which are commonly used in commercial & industrial operations such as dry cleaning & metal degreasing. Exposure to PCE & TCE carry the risk of health problems, including liver damage & an increased risk of cancer, according to the EPA.
Whether the specific well that workers are pumping from contains the chemicals is unknown. CNN reported that the EPA is testing the site over the weekend.
Luis Melendez, sub-director for environmental compliance at AAA, said that the water utility was not aware that they were drawing water from a Superfund site until CNN notified them. But he said that the well has been opened on an emergency basis & that the water was safe to drink.
CNN also noted that the EPA had found the site to be w/in federal limits for PCE & chloroform in 2015.