Water for Puerto Ricans Being Pumped From Superfund Site

According to a CNN report
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2017 1:08 PM CDT
Water for Puerto Ricans Being Pumped From Superfund Site
In this Sept. 28, 2017 photo, people affected by Hurricane Maria bathe in water piped in from a mountain creek, in Naranjito, Puerto Rico.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

Most of the people waiting in line for water Friday at a well in Puerto Rico were unaware it was coming from a federally designated Superfund site, reports CNN, which made the discovery after reviewing documents and speaking with officials. With more than 35% of residents still lacking water three weeks after Hurricane Maria, it's unclear it would have changed much if they were aware. "I don't have a choice," a 66-year-old man says. "This is the only option I have." The well sits on the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site, which was listed as a part of the Superfund program to clean up hazardous waste just last year. The EPA says the site is polluted with industrial chemicals that can damage the liver and increase the risk of cancer.

The Puerto Rico water utility pumping the well and distributing the water to residents says it was unaware it was on a Superfund site until shown maps by CNN, though it maintains the water is fine for drinking. The EPA also says that while the site contains hazardous chemicals, it's unclear if the well itself does. "While some of these wells are sometimes used to provide drinking water, the EPA is concerned that people could be drinking water that may be contaminated, depending on the well," the EPA says in a statement. A professor of toxicology says he's "never seen this before"—a Superfund site being used as a source of drinking water. Meanwhile, authorities Saturday raised the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria to 48, the AP reports. About 85% of the island still has no power. (Read more Puerto Rico stories.)

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