For Immediate Release

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One Month After Hurricane Maria, Federal Government Must Answer for Recent Decline in Access to Safe Drinking Water in Puerto Rico

Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

WASHINGTON - “It’s been nearly one month since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, and yesterday, official numbers on drinking water access inexplicably declined from 72% to 65%. The Federal government must answer for this apparent set back in an already dire situation. The number has crept up to only 69% today, when we should be seeing much more significant progress. Anyone who does not have tap water available should be provided with access to clean drinking water.

Less than 20 percent of the island has power, which is needed for water treatment and distribution. The EPA had to issue a warning telling desperate people not to consume water from wells at contaminated toxic waste sites, and many are relying on stream water, which carries the risk of contracting diseases like leptospirosis. Residents are already dying from drinking tainted water.

“The food system shock from this unnatural disaster is also alarming. The hurricane obliterated about 80 percent of Puerto Rico’s crop value, and only 88 percent of grocery stores are open – and those that are open aren’t fully stocked.

“We must finally begin to put people before profit, and rebuild Puerto Rico’s food, water and energy systems to better withstand future disasters. We must also finally develop policies that reckon with this climate-induced chaos and move swiftly off of fossil fuels.

“Congress should fully fund Puerto Rico’s humanitarian aid and reconstruction, and consider debt forgiveness. We need urgent federal action in the form of a just and equitable humanitarian response and federal funding to rebuild Puerto Rico sustainably. Anything less is an abrogation of moral responsibility for all Americans.”

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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