Continuing its work to ensure water quality improvements in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has reached an agreement with the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) settling twelve cases involving violations of the Clean Water Act.
PRASA agreed to pay $130,000 in penalties and undertake a $500,000 project, called a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP), to restore and protect the Lake Loiza watershed. The project will be the first conducted under the PRASA Stewardship Program, which provides a framework for developing and implementing water quality management plans for priority watersheds in Puerto Rico.
"This landmark settlement will provide the funds needed to make progress protecting drinking water in Puerto Rico at its source," said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. "PRASA will use the money to target the most polluted watershed first. Drinking water standards in the watershed meet water quality standards, but can be improved if it is cleaned up."
In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that established the PRASA Watershed Stewardship Program, PRASA, the Environmental Quality Board (EQB), the Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDOH) and EPA agreed that the highest priority watershed would be Lake Loiza because it serves as a significant source of drinking water and receives a large amount of effluent from PRASA wastewater treatment plants.
In carrying out this SEP, PRASA will work with a full range of stakeholders to support EQB, PRDOH and EPA in the development of water quality management plans in the Lake Loiza watershed. PRASA will provide technical data and information to EQB for its use in establishing pollution "budgets," known as total maximum daily loads (TMDL's), for waters within the Lake Loiza watershed. The TMDL, which established the amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards, is intended to bring water bodies that aren't currently meeting water quality standards back into compliance with them.
PRASA will also provide support to the PRDOH in implementing source water protection programs in the Lake Loiza watershed. PRASA will report progress on a triennial basis to its executive and technical committees of the program made up of representatives from EQB, EPA and PRDOH.