Puerto Rico’s big water problem

by | Jun 7, 2017 | Puerto Rico | Comments

Puerto Rico’s drinking water supply system has been experiencing numerous health hazards affecting the citizens on the island. High levels of lead, bacteria, and unhealthy chemicals have created a toxic mix for residents on the island. Regulations have not been upheld, thus allowing this problem to grow. 70 percent of the population is served by water that violates federal health standards. The government-run water utility routinely fails to conduct the required safety tests. They continuously find failure in the safety tests they do conduct. The city of San Juan has the worst big-city water system in the nation. In San Juan, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) had more violations than any other big city. It contained 64 safety violations, including 24 different health violations, in 2015 alone.

Observers expect the situation to deteriorate further. President Donald Trump has proposed big cuts to Environmental Protection Agency programs that help fund the Puerto Rican water system, and federal safety enforcement mechanisms. Data indicates a faulty water treatment process that left behind too much bacteria and carcinogenic chemicals. These are also linked to birth defects, as well as aging pipes that contaminated the water with lead and copper. The same utility that provides the island with water manages the sewage system too. These leaky pipes likely lead to cross-contamination.

Puerto Rico’s economic woes continue to limit the potential solutions to health hazards like this one. This is a very real public health problem that is further deteriorating the quality of life in Puerto Rico. This could become a national humanitarian crisis. It needs to be addressed and get the attention it deserves, in order for it to be fixed.