Senior EPA Officials Wrap up Visit Focused on Strengthening Puerto Rico Recovery Efforts
NEW YORK – Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) senior officials wrapped up their visit to Puerto Rico highlighting the Trump Administration’s emphasis on restoring and rebuilding Puerto Rico. EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento, Rear Admiral Peter Brown, EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez, and EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker toured pharmaceutical facilities, held a brownfields roundtable, announced new EPA Circuit Rider assistance, and visited two landfills to highlight critical solid waste needs across Puerto Rico.
“Through these visits, EPA sought to identify areas the agency can help improve upon and forge partnerships to achieve sustainable disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico,” said Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento. “EPA is committed to finding creative and proactive solutions that best support the environment of these territories and resident’s health.”
“The Trump Administration continues to work closely with state and local leaders to ensure that all Puerto Rican’s have access to clean water, reliable energy, and safe solid-waste management facilities,” said Rear Admiral Peter Brown. “By doing so, we are promoting economic and environmental prosperity for the people of Puerto Rico.”
“This week’s engagement with the government of Puerto Rico, members of the federal family, local governments, and the non-profit and business communities was a continuation of our respectful partnership working to help aid disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico,” said Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “The challenges are real, but by leveraging program like Brownfields and Circuit Rider and supplemental funding, we are strengthening and deepening partnerships to facilitate positive change in Puerto Rico while respecting local decision-making. I have come away from this visit energized to continue on this road together with our partners as we build a more resilient Puerto Rico that is better able to weather future storms and disasters.”
Figure 1-SKALARPHARMA in Guayama, PR hosted a tour for Rear Admiral Peter Brown, Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento, Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez, Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker and others.
The purpose of the Puerto Rico visit was to foster collaboration between senior U.S. officials, the Puerto Rico government, municipalities, the business community, and non-profit and community organizations to tackle challenges remaining in Puerto Rico’s continued recovery. This included discussion of how to improve environmental infrastructure in Puerto Rico and finding ways to pool resources for resilient environmental programs. EPA officials were joined by Rear Admiral Peter Brown, Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources Secretary Rafael Marchago, Puerto Rico Department of Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano, Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Recovery Coordinator Alex Amparo, White House Policy Advisor Juan Andres Caro, Core 3 – Recover, Reconstruction, Resiliency (COR3) Director Ottmar Chavez, and U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development in Puerto Rico Director Josue Rivera.
To underscore the importance of using brownfields to boost job creation and environmental stewardship, EPA participated in a brownfields roundtable hosted by the Puerto Rico government. EPA is committed to expanding the Brownfields program in Puerto Rico – removing barriers to funding and making vital resources available that will aid in the recovery effort.
Figure 2-Senior EPA officials and Rear Admiral Peter Brown tour GSK Pharmaceuticals in Humacao, PR and discuss the implementation and opportunities of EPA’s Brownfields Program in Puerto Rico.
On Friday EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Benevento and other senior EPA officials joined Rear Admiral Brown and high-level Puerto Rico officials for an important presentation and discussion about the challenges and successes of Puerto Rico’s recovery. The discussion focused on the importance of working in collaboration to tackle recovery challenges.
Figure 3-Disaster recovery discussion with Rear Admiral Brown, Regional Administrator Lopez and Regional Administrator Walker, and reps from FEMA, PR govt, USDA, and Commerce at EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.
The officials and partners visited the Cañaboncito and Pedro Calixto Community Water Systems, both located in Caguas, where they announced EPA will provide critically needed circuit rider technical support to 45 community-owned drinking water systems in rural Puerto Rico as part of EPA’s Circuit Rider program. Even before the 2017 hurricanes and subsequent earthquakes, these systems faced severe economic and technical challenges providing water to their communities. Professional experts will provide technical assistance to 45 of the 240 systems serving 100,000 Puerto Rico residents in communities across the island that rely on drinking water sources from pumps and wells and surface water that are not supplied by PRASA, called Non-PRASA systems.
Figure 4-Visit to Community Drinking Water System (Parcelas deCañaboncito Non-PRASA System) with representatives from EPA, Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Asocaguas, the Water Coalition, Rear Admiral Brown and the Mayor of Caguas William Miranda Torres.
Senior EPA officials and Rear Admiral Brown also joined Carolina Municipal Mayor Jose Aponte Dalmau and Toa Baja Municipal Mayor Betito Marquez at their respective municipal landfills. They engaged with operators, NGO partners, and representatives of Puerto Rico’s recycling industry. Puerto Rico struggles with landfills that are past or near full capacity, and some present an imminent and substantial threat to human health and the environment. EPA is committed to working with its trusted partners and local officials in finding proactive and sustainable strategies to bring these landfills into compliance.
Figure 5-The Mayor of Carolina Jose Aponte Dalmau and staff visited the Carolina Landfill with RADM Brown and EPA senior officials
Figure 6-A demonstration of the landfill’s anaerobic digestion operation was a highlight of the visit
EPA’s experience and multisectoral efforts in the Disaster Recovery have been a resource and model for others. Infrastructure projects funded to Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) and various municipalities through the clean water and drinking water Puerto Rico State Revolving Funds, supplemental funding through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Brownfields funding, among other sources continue to be a vital resource in rebuilding and maintaining human health and the environment.
To learn more about EPA’s work in Puerto Rico visit https://www.epa.gov/pr