EPA tells Puerto Ricans not to drink water from hazardous waste sites

EPA tells Puerto Ricans not to drink water from hazardous waste sites
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is warning Puerto Rico residents not to drink from wells at so-called Superfund sites amid reports that some on the island have sought water from the hazardous waste areas.

"There are reports of residents obtaining, or trying to obtain, drinking water from wells at hazardous waste 'Superfund' sites in Puerto Rico," the agency said in a statement Wednesday.

"EPA advises against tampering with sealed and locked wells or drinking from these wells, as it may be dangerous to people’s health."

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Superfund sites are areas considered highly contaminated by toxins by the EPA and are subject to special federal oversight. There are currently 18 sites in Puerto Rico on the National Priorities List. 

The warning about Superfund wells comes as much of the island remains without access to drinking water in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which tore across Puerto Rico last month. As of Thursday morning, about 64 percent of residents had water service restored, according to a recovery website managed by Puerto Rico's government.

Only 17 percent of the island has electricity, according to the site. 

The EPA said it is working with local municipalities in Puerto Rico to get drinking wells up and running, but noted that some communities are in need of electrical generators to get the wells functioning.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE has faced criticism in recent weeks for its response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The administration stepped up its relief operations on the island late last month.

Trump, however, has defended his handling of the situation, suggesting late last month that the U.S. territory's leadership and others on the island were relying too heavily on federal assistance and should do more to help its own residents.

In a Thursday morning tweet, Trump warned that recovery workers will not stay in Puerto Rico "forever," and said that it would be up to Congress to decide how much federal money to set aside for the recovery efforts.