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EPA Hurricane Maria Update for Saturday, September 30

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WASHINGTON (September 30, 2017) –  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 supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through its assistance to the governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).

EPA is focused on environmental impacts and potential threats to human health caused by Hurricane Maria, as well as the safety of those in the affected areas. Our priority is getting clean drinking water to residents, which includes sampling, analysis and lab support, and getting wastewater systems up and running.

About 123 personnel are currently involved in hurricane response efforts. Staff from EPA Region 2’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division (CEPD) have been assisting with EPA’s emergency response efforts throughout our preparations for and response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The EPA office in Guaynabo will officially open for business on Monday, October 2.  Also on Monday, two EPA Spanish-speaking public information/community relations staff will deploy to Puerto Rico.

Assessment teams made up of On-Scene Coordinators, Remedial Project Managers, technical assistance contractors, and public information officers continue to deploy to Puerto Rico and the USVI. We have begun re-assessing Superfund sites, oil sites, and chemical facilities in Puerto Rico and the USVI as part of EPA’s response to Hurricane Maria. A team of EPA employees are co-located with FEMA in its coordination centers in both San Juan and St. Croix, USVI, to facilitate efficient interaction with local governments and other federal agencies.

EPA is continuing to coordinate with local governments in Puerto Rico and the USVI to assess the conditions of water and wastewater treatment plants. We are also working to get labs back on line so that environmental samples can be locally analyzed. In Puerto Rico, assessment teams evaluated three government-owned laboratories where water and wastewater samples are tested; the labs in Arecibo and Cayugas were found to have significant damage, while the lab in Mayaguez is operational.

In the USVI, EPA now has 28 personnel on the ground to assist in response efforts. In St. Croix, USVI, two EPA water assessment and sampling teams, joined by representatives of the USVI government, have sampled 59 public drinking water systems. For the systems where a problem has been detected, steps have been taken to disinfect the water system. Sample results are being provided to the USVI government and other system owners/operators to inform and assist them in getting their drinking water systems back up and running.

In Puerto Rico and the USVI, EPA is working on debris management planning with FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Puerto Rico government. We are developing options for the management of vegetative materials, hazardous waste, construction debris, wet debris and household hazardous waste.

Fallen trees and various debris surround a community near San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 23. Photo courtesy of the Puerto Rico National Guard.

Since the events of Hurricane Irma and Maria, EPA has issued grants to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands under an expedited process to deliver funds more efficiently. The grants awarded to Puerto Rico total more than $2.3 million and the grants awarded to the U.S. Virgin Islands total nearly $6.2 million. The grants funded will be used to implement and support specific projects and programs as well as develop environmental plans in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

EPA has important resources available online in English and Spanish about floodwaters, hazardous debris, household hazardous waste, and other hurricane impacts. EPA will continue to provide regular updates about EPA’s response to Hurricane Maria. For information and updates, visit: