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EPA Hurricane Maria Update for Thursday, October 5, 2017

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WASHINGTON (October 5, 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 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 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. 

EPA continues to deploy personnel to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as conditions allow. As of October 5, 2017:

  • About 182 personnel are currently involved in hurricane response efforts.
  • About 28 personnel are on the ground in USVI to assist with response efforts.
  • About 61 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 provide assistance to establish and operate facilities for receiving debris. In Puerto Rico, the Environmental Quality Board has approved the disposal of construction debris and wet debris at the following landfills: Peñuelas Valley, Ecosystems, Cabo Rojo, Humacao, Hormigueros, Vega Baja, Toa Baja, Ponce, and Salinas.

In the USVI, EPA is coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard on supporting the recovery of submerged or damaged vessels. 

Public Schools
In the USVI, EPA has been coordinating with the USVI government regarding the re-opening of public schools. The Virgin Islands Department of Education has identified schools on St. Thomas and St. Croix which have been prioritized for testing of drinking water by EPA in coordination with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.  EPA will continue to coordinate efforts for drinking water sample collection at schools with the USVI government.

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

  • USVI:
    • EPA continues to coordinate drinking water sampling with the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources.
  • Puerto Rico:
    • The EPA continues to focus on assessing both drinking water and wastewater systems and continues to work closely with the government of Puerto Rico.
    • One-third of Puerto Rico’s sewage treatment plants remain non-operational.  Raw sewage continues to be released into waterways and is expected to continue until repairs can be made and power is restored.

Water Safety
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.

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: