Jan 09, 2018

Hurricanes Irma and Maria Update

Response efforts continue in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

EPA continues recovery efforts following Hurricanes Irma and Maria

In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues efforts to address drinking water and wastewater needs in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Specifically, progress is being made relating to the controlling of hazardous waste, debris management and recovery of sunken vessels.

EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez claims there are more than 375 EPA personnel on the ground throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for recovery efforts.

“People across the islands still face daily challenges to secure clean drinking water, segregate hazardous debris in their homes and neighborhoods and restore their quality of life,” said Lopez. “EPA has collected about 130,000 containers of hazardous materials, responded to oil spills and is addressing sewer and drinking water infrastructure problems that still impact communities.”

Of the various recovery efforts being undertaken by different agencies, EPA is focused on the separation of debris and the control of hazardous waste materials, while also aiding in the proper disposal of oil, chemical, medical and electronic waste materials. Household materials being seized and separated include aerosol cans, household cleaners, computers and televisions, among other items. 130,000 containers of various waste items have been completed thus far.

Beyond these efforts, EPA is also focused on the recovery of sunken or damaged vessels in unison with the U.S. Coast Guard. Specifically, the agency’s responsibility within this operation involves the retrieval and disposal of oil, batteries and hazardous materials. 375 vessels have been assessed thus far.

Finally, drinking water and wastewater management are the final areas of focus within the greater recovery effort. This process involves the sampling and analysis of various water sources throughout the two sites. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, EPA has completed more than 1,400 drinking water assessments.

The distribution of EPA workers includes 284 on-ground personnel in Puerto Rico and 94 on-ground personnel in the U.S. Virgin Islands.