News Releases from Headquarters
EPA Hurricane Maria Update for Friday, September 29
WASHINGTON (September 29, 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 132 personnel are currently involved in hurricane response efforts.
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. This includes eighteen more EPA responders who deployed to the USVI September 28. 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.
In Puerto Rico, EPA assessment teams completed preliminary assessments of the Battery Recycling Company Superfund site in Arecibo, the Corozal Well Superfund site in Corozal, and Puma Caribe (CAPECO) Superfund site, which is also a major hub for oil storage and transportation in Puerto Rico. Site visits by EPA personnel determined there was no significant damage or off-site impacts as a result of Hurricane Maria. The Corozal Well Superfund site was reassessed and found unimpacted after a nearby natural gas explosion at the Techno Gas facility in Corozal.
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 St. Croix, USVI, two EPA water assessment and sampling teams, joined by representatives of the USVI government, have sampled 38 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.
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: www.epa.gov/hurricane-maria.