News Releases from Region 02
EPA Announces Agreement with Community and Non-Profit Organizations Will Help Transform Communities in Puerto Rico - REVISED
(New York, NY) On September 19, EPA announced an agreement with community and non-profit organizations to provide critically needed sustainable, clean drinking water solutions to citizens in geographically remote parts of Puerto Rico. At a ceremony in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico, EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez and representatives from Por Los Nuestros, Water Mission International, American Red Cross, Puerto Rico Science, Research and Technology Trust, Puerto Rico Community Foundation, OXFAM, and Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will leverage more than $10 million in funding from the nonprofit partners to help small drinking water systems not managed by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA).
“We have an opportunity now to change decades of communities struggling to bring drinking water to their people, and that is what we are doing today with this energized and powerful partnership of government, non-profit, and private organizations,” said Pete Lopez, EPA Regional Administrator. “The time is now to change the equation and seize this opportunity to transform communities and make these systems more sustainable and resilient.”
Approximately three percent of Puerto Rico’s population is served by non-PRASA and unregulated drinking water systems that lack the technical, managerial, and financial capabilities and resources necessary to assure access to reliable and safe drinking water. These systems are very vulnerable to disruption in the face of large storm events. In response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, government and non-profits have been working together to bring relief to rural communities, deploying full water treatment systems to communities in dire need of clean water, repairing damaged systems, providing generators, and in some cases, providing solar power to water treatment systems to achieve operational status. To date, more than 20 of the 240 non-PRASA systems in Puerto Rico have achieved energy independence over the past year.
EPA is also working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development on bringing a program to Puerto Rico that would provide technical assistants to rural, non-PRASA systems. The technical assistants, who are contracted with the National Rural Water Association, would be experienced in managing issues that may arise in the day-to-day operations of rural water systems.
“Water Mission is grateful for the continued support and cooperation of the EPA. This partnership accelerated our ability to quickly respond to water-related emergencies in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. We look forward to equipping more rural community water systems with solar-powered pumping solutions that are resilient and sustainable,” said Mark Baker, Water Mission Director of Disaster Response.
“As part of our long-term recovery program, the American Red Cross is proud to support efforts that enable stable and reliable drinking water to people located in remote parts of the island. We are excited to partner with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the other collaborators in this agreement that will help create resilient communities and be better prepared for future disasters,” said Lee Vanessa Feliciano, Regional Executive of the American Red Cross Puerto Rico Chapter.
The Memorandum of Understanding taps into over $10 million pledged by the nonprofit groups to build capacity of the organizations that own and operate non-PRASA and unregulated community drinking water systems and to make the systems more energy independent. The agreement also outlines coordination efforts to be taken by the parties, which include:
- developing academic projects and programs that investigate sustainable design standards and technologies;
- establishing adaptation strategies and disaster risk reduction approaches;
- working with the public and private sectors in sustainable planning, energy and water efficiency and renewable energy, and in delivering safe drinking water;
- providing technical assistance and training;
- and sharing among the parties valuable information, data, research, and experiences that support these efforts.
Solar panels supplying power to Aguas Buenas drinking wáter system.
EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez with the Mayor of Aguas Buenas,
Javier García; Dr. Nelson Colón from the Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico;
Community Leader Don Guillermo Falcón; and EPA staff.