FEMA confirms thousands of expired water bottles left on farmland in Puerto Rico

Tens of thousands of water bottles meant for the people of Puerto Rico after a pair of hurricanes hit the island in 2017 are sitting unopened on farmland near the city of San Juan nearly two years after the disasters.

Photographs of the water bottles emerged this week after international news agency AFP captured aerial images of the bottles on what appeared to be a private estate 25 miles west of San Juan. Some of the images showed broken pallets with the bottles. 

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A spokesman from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confirmed to AFP that the water bottles had been provided as part of relief for Hurricane Maria, which hit the island in September 2017.

The water was expired and it was assumed that the bottles are being disposed of, AFP reported. It said the spokesman declined to say exactly how many water bottles there were, how long they were on the farm and why they were permitted to expire. 

The matters were "under review by the legal department," the spokesman said. 

A FEMA spokesperson told The Hill in a statement on Tuesday that the agency had a surplus of water that is near or past its expiration following its response to the storms.

"FEMA followed federal acquisition processes in order to dispose of the expiring water that included offers to federal and territorial governments and public auction," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that FEMA has contracted to have the expired water removed and disposed of, a process that is expected to be completed in September.

According to the agency, FEMA is required to surplus water when it is within 120 days of its expiration date.

If it is not able to sell or donate the water, it is responsible for disposing of it. In this case, the agency has contracted with PR Drilling & Supply’s Inc. to do so.

CBS news correspondent David Begnaud had tweeted a similar response from FEMA Monday in addition to photos of the bottles. 

FEMA said last year that millions of other water bottles intended for hurricane relief had been undistributed at a Puerto Rican airport for more than a year. 

Hurricanes Maria and Irma struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, killing thousands. 

--This report was updated at 3:09 p.m.