Currently, Puerto Rico is confronting a crisis: access to safe water and air. As of 2018, over 95% of Puerto Ricans’ local water systems that are giving them natural disasters have “at least one recent violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act’s lead and copper testing requirements.” This issue has several causes, including natural disasters and manufacturing companies.
Hurricanes have devastated Puerto Rico for years. The most recent examples include hurricanes Maria (2017) and Fiona (2022). The mass destruction had damaged Puerto Ricans’ water access. Power outages affected water pumps as they relied on electricity.
The hurricanes also destroyed the region’s dams, filtration plants, and well pipelines. This left entire communities needing access to water for an unknown amount of time. Since Hurricane Maria has contaminated the remaining water, diseases such as leptospirosis have spread. Puerto Rico has not been able to recover from the hurricane’s damage, either.
Additionally, manufacturing companies have only amplified Puerto Rico’s environmental crisis by contaminating the territory’s water and air. This can be seen in a city known as Salinas, which has been affected by a company named Steri-Tech. This company sterilizes medical equipment with a chemical known as ethylene oxide, which, if left exposed to humans for long periods, can cause breast cancer, lymphoma, and many more ailments. In 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency collected data with the intention of conducting a “risk assessment” in Salinas. Earlier this year, they left the people of Salinas with long-awaited news. Salinas had “high concentrations of ethylene oxide.”
A lack of action to address these dangers has persisted for years. Thus, residents of these affected regions have fought to improve these conditions. One resident stated, “I stop this at a federal level. I don’t waste my time here in Puerto Rico.”Politicians, including Chuck Schumer, have brought awareness to Puerto Rico’s state. He and several activists advocate for solutions such as implementing solar power Puerto Ricans’ mistrust of their own water supply surpasses that of any US state. As time passes, this only worsens. Efforts must be made to improve the territory’s water systems and air quality since residents are at constant risk of developing life-threatening illnesses.