Puerto Ricans pump drinking water from hazardous-waste: report

Getty Images

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 three weeks after Hurricane Maria tore across the island, many residents – U.S. citizens – remain without access to clean drinking water. As of Saturday evening, service had been restored to about 64 percent 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 and 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, and distributed it to storm-stricken residents. 

According to the EPA, groundwater at the Dorado site is “contaminated with organic based solvents, primarily tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), which are commonly used in commercial and industrial operations such as dry cleaning and metal degreasing.

Exposure to PCE and TCE carry the risk of health problems, including liver damage and 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, and that the water was safe to drink.

CNN also noted that the EPA had found the site to be within federal limits for PCE and chloroform in 2015.

Tags Environmental Protection Agency Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico
See all Hill.TV See all Video