Lack of Funding Delays the Integration of 18 Years of Seismic Data Into Puerto Rico’s Earthquake Hazard Maps and the Building Code

Machines costing thousands of dollars are operated from a small office on the college campus. Keeping them in good condition costs the government’s coffers several million annually. They are seismic and tide-gauge station devices that are part of the tsunami and earthquake detection system. Monitoring this information not only contributes to the generation of data in Puerto Rico, but also gathers data on the US Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic. The data generated is analyzed and interpreted by three research professors from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in Mayagüez, who, with the support of some students, do their best to document these phenomena, while informing the island’s population about the risks.

Falta de presupuesto atrasa que se integren datos sísmicos de los últimos 18 años a los mapas de amenaza sísmica y al Código de Construcción

Desde una pequeña oficina en el campus universitario se manejan máquinas que cuestan miles de dólares. Mantenerlas en buen estado le cuesta varios millones anuales al erario. Son equipos de estaciones sísmicas y mareográficas que forman parte del sistema de detección de tsunamis y terremotos. El monitoreo de esta información no solo aporta a la generación de datos en Puerto Rico, sino que también recoge información sobre las Islas Vírgenes estadounidenses y de República Dominicana. Los datos que se generan son analizados e interpretados por tres profesores investigadores de la Universidad de Puerto Rico en Mayagüez, que con apoyo de algunos estudiantes, hacen lo posible por documentar estos fenómenos y a la vez orientar al país sobre los riesgos.

USACE, Dept. of Housing Block Environmental Justice for Caño Martín Peña Residents

When her children were studying at the Santiago Iglesias Pantín Elementary School in Barrio Obrero, Aileen Morales had to carry them on her back every time the streets next to Caño Martín Peña were flooded. She did not want them to arrive at their classrooms with their legs wet or with the stench caused by the dirty waters that for decades have affected the peace of communities, every time they experience heavy rains. Morales, who is a resident and community leader in the Parada 27 sector, has been watching the news for more than a decade reporting on the flooding events related to the Caño. She has also participated in annual meetings with members of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The flooding problems and the need to dredge this urban body of water are widely known issues both in Puerto Rico, and in some political circles in the United States, as a matter of environmental justice and health.

Cuerpo de Ingenieros y Departamento de la Vivienda impiden que los residentes del Caño Martín Peña logren su justicia ambiental

Cuando sus hijos estudiaban en la Escuela Elemental Santiago Iglesias Pantín de Barrio Obrero, Aileen Morales tenía que cargarlos a sus espaldas cada vez que se inundaban las calles contiguas al Caño Martín Peña. No quería que llegaran al salón de clase con sus piernas mojadas ni con el hedor causado por las aguas sucias que por décadas han afectado la paz de comunidades, cada vez que experimentan un evento de lluvia fuerte. Morales, quien es residente y líder comunitaria en el sector Parada 27, lleva más de una década viendo las noticias que reseñan los sucesos de inundación relacionados al Caño. También ha participado de reuniones anuales con integrantes del Cuerpo de Ingenieros del Ejército de los Estados Unidos (USACE, en inglés). El problema de inundaciones y la necesidad de dragar este cuerpo de agua urbano son asuntos ampliamente conocidos tanto en Puerto Rico, como en algunos círculos políticos de Estados Unidos, como un asunto de justicia ambiental y de salud.

Gobierno incumple con ley que le ordena hacer transición a vehículos menos contaminantes

El Gobierno de Puerto Rico ha incumplido con la ley que le obliga, desde el año fiscal 2018-2019, a adquirir solo vehículos híbridos o de fuentes que no dependan del combustible fósil. El mandato está incluido en la Ley Núm. 33 del año 2019, llamada Ley de Mitigación, Adaptación y Resiliencia al Cambio Climático en Puerto Rico, un estatuto que entró en vigor en mayo de 2019, tras la firma del exgobernador Ricardo Rosselló Nevares. En el Artículo 18 de la ley se establece que la política pública de la compra de estos vehículos seguirá las guías que establezca la Administración de Servicios Generales de Puerto Rico (ASG). Pero, tras 19 meses desde que comenzó su vigencia, la ASG todavía no ha elaborado el reglamento con las normas y guías para la compra de vehículos que funcionen con fuentes alternativas al combustible fósil.

Communities in Puerto Rico will Remain at the Mercy of Water Rationing and Flooding for Several Years

In the Cubuy neighborhood in Canóvanas, having a cistern — sometimes two, or even three — is indispensable to deal with the unpredictability of the potable water service. When there is no such option, you have to resort to gallons, buckets or containers to store the liquid. Madeline Negrón, 48, a resident of the Eva Flores sector of this neighborhood, is witness to that, and she says it doesn’t take a hurricane, storm or a drought for the pipes to be empty for up to three days straight. When Hurricane María struck in 2017, the roughly 10 residents who live in this area had to wait several weeks before water service was restored. The situation is much worse in times of droughts, since Cubuy and other neighborhoods in Canóvanas are among the first sectors to get rationed when the levels of the Carraízo reservoir — located in Trujillo Alto — drop.

Puerto Rico’s main recovery projects yet to get off the ground three years after Hurricane Maria

Rebuilding the most costly and essential infrastructure projects — including those related to water supply, power service, education and recreation — which were affected after Hurricane María slammed into Puerto Rico in 2017, could take several more years to get off the ground. So far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has obligated money to only four of the 10 most expensive recovery projects requiring federal funds, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) found. The remaining six are in the project formulation stage before the federal agency, which is only the first of 19 evaluation steps when claiming funds for a structure that has been affected by an emergency. That first step includes filling out project worksheets (PW), in which the entity that claims losses to FEMA details the costs of the work and the breakdown of any applicable insurance reimbursement. Completing the entire evaluation could take months and even years, several local and federal government officials interviewed by the CPI confirmed.