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EPA Hurricane Maria Update for Monday, October 9th

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WASHINGTON (October 9, 2017) —The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to coordinate closely with federal, commonwealth, territory, and local partners as the Agency responds to the impact of Hurricane Maria. EPA is focused on environmental impacts and potential threats to human health as well as the safety of those in the affected areas. EPA is continuing to coordinate with local governments in Puerto Rico and the USVI to assess the conditions of drinking water, which includes sampling, analysis and lab support, and getting wastewater treatment systems up and running. EPA’s missions also include oil and chemical spill response, oil and chemical facility assessments, and debris management. 

On October 8, 2017, EPA received a declaration of crisis notification from the government of Puerto Rico to use sodium dichloroisocyanurate (NaDCC) tablets for water purification and concurred with the request. These tablets, donated by the UN World Food Programme, are used for emergency water disinfection. The tablets dissolve in water, releasing chlorine that kills target pests.

EPA has collaborated with FEMA and the Department of Defense on a video available in both English and Spanish (the Spanish version follows the English segments.) EPA’s Director of the Caribbean office describes the FEMA/EPA priorities for getting clean drinking water to residents, including sampling, analysis and lab support, and getting wastewater systems up and running in Puerto Rico and the USVI. The video is broken into specific topics, including an overview of EPA’s Caribbean office; a description of EPA’s ongoing work assessing drinking water, waste water, and regulated facilities; wastewater and combined sewer overflows; and potential health impacts. The video is available with captions ( and without

Inspecting Puerto Nuevo Wastewater Treatment Plant, San Juan, PR. Photo Courtesy of EPA.Inspecting Puerto Nuevo Wastewater Treatment Plant, San Juan, PR. Photo courtesy of EPA.

EPA continues to deploy personnel to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as conditions allow. As of October 9, 2017:

  • About 195 personnel are currently involved in hurricane response efforts.
  • About 33 personnel are on the ground in USVI to assist with response efforts.
  • About 67 personnel are on the ground in Puerto Rico to assist with response efforts.

Debris Management
EPA continues to work with FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Puerto Rico and USVI governments on debris management. EPA will assist with the handling and disposal of orphan containers, household hazardous waste, medical waste, and e-waste. EPA plans to conduct air monitoring at collection areas and during all hazardous materials operations.  

Public Schools
In the USVI, EPA completed the assessments of potable drinking water supplies at the schools prioritized for re-opening by the V.I. Dept. of Education.

Assessment of Superfund Sites, Oil Sites, and Regulated Facilities
EPA continues to re-assess Superfund sites, oil sites, and chemical facilities in both Puerto Rico and the USVI to determine if the sites were affected by Hurricane Maria and if there is a potential for contamination to cause off-site impacts.  

Drinking Water and Wastewater Management
In the USVI, EPA continues to coordinate drinking water sampling with the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources. In Puerto Rico, EPA continues to focus on assessing both drinking water and wastewater systems and continues to work closely with the government of Puerto Rico.

Water Safety
Raw sewage continues to be released into waterways and is expected to continue until repairs can be made and power is restored. Water contaminated with livestock waste, human sewage, chemicals, and other contaminants can lead to illness when used for drinking, bathing, and other hygiene activities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should not use the water from rivers, streams, and coastal water to drink, bathe, wash, or to cook with unless first boiling this water for a minimum of one minute. If boiling the water is not possible, water may be disinfected with bleach. To learn more about making water safe in an emergency, go to CDC’s Making Water Safe in an Emergency web page.

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