Puerto Rico pays off Clean Water Fund debt
As of February 20, 2019, the Puerto Rican government repaid its $194.5 million debt to the Puerto Rico Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) after a three year effort by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Puerto Rican Government.
EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross states that the availability of these funds will enable the SRFs to deposit the money in a trust and begin developing infrastructure projects and sewer sanitation initiatives to ensure Puerto Ricans have access to clean drinking water.
The debt initially occurred in 2016 when the Puerto Rico Government Development Bank (GDB) declared bankruptcy. At the time of bankruptcy, he GDB had been holding $194.5 million in funds to be allocated to the SRF’s, so the Puerto Rican Government included this as a repayment necessary in managing Puerto Rico’s fiscal repayments.
The Clean Water SRFs allows community members and organizations to get affordable, low-interest loans for projects to benefit water quality and access. Similarly, the Drinking Water SRFs funds larger state projects regarding water systems and providing clean water.
Access to clean water has traditionally been difficult for the territory. Even prior to Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico is reported to have the worst drinking quality in America. According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, almost 70% of people in Puerto Rico were obtaining water that did not fit the federal health standards for clean drinking water. This is due to the water hosting harmful bacteria and household pollutants.
EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez concurs that the funds are much needed for rebuilding after recent environmental disasters, stating that “Hurricanes Irma and María devastated portions of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and made even more clear the critical need for lasting and sustainable improvements in Puerto Rico.”