Desperate Puerto Ricans Are Drinking Water from a Hazardous-waste Site
Albanian Daily News
Published October 14, 2017
Jose Luis Rodriguez waited in line Friday to fill plastic jugs in the back of his pickup truck with water for drinking, doing the dishes and bathing.
But there is something about this water Rodriguez didn't know: It was being pumped to him by water authorities from a federally designated hazardous-waste site, CNN learned after reviewing Superfund documents and interviewing federal and local officials.
Rodriguez, 66, is so desperate for water that this news didn't startle him.
"I don't have a choice," he said. "This is the only option I have."
More than three weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged this island, more than 35% of the island's residents -- American citizens -- remain without safe drinking water.
It's clear some residents are turning to potentially risky sources to get by.
Friday afternoon, CNN watched workers from the Puerto Rican water utility, Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, or AAA, distribute water from a well at the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site, which was listed in 2016 as part of the federal Superfund program for hazardous waste cleanup.
Residents like Rodriguez filled small bottles from a hose and piled them in their vehicles. Large trucks with cylindrical tanks on their backs carried the water to people elsewhere. Some of the trucks carried the name of the municipality of Dorado. Others simply were labeled with the words "Agua Potable," Spanish for potable water.
In announcing the addition of the Dorado site to the Superfund program, the US Environmental Protection Agency says the area was polluted with industrial chemicals, including tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene, which "can have serious health impacts including damage to the liver and increasing the risk of cancer," according to the EPA.