On July 4, 2017, Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rossello passed a law that prohibited coal-based landfills to exist within the country. The detrimental element was to be erased once handlers transformed “it to construction material,” Colorlines reports — a $10 million effort.
Two months later, Hurricane Maria’s Category 5 wind gusts disrupted the uncovered hills of coal ash, contaminating the country’s groundwater, The New Republic reveals. A power plant located in Guayama is the source of this latest development in the country’s fight for clean water and restored power.
As investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the toxic groundwater is finding its way to the ocean, which opens up another set of environmental issues not only for the Earth but for the country’s residents. A closer look at the substance led to the detection of “signs of radioactivity, in addition to traces of arsenic, chromium, selenium, and molybdenum,” as outlined in a study by La Perla del Sur and the Center for Investigative Journalism. The New Republic notes that Guayama is home to 42,000 people.
On top of finding solutions to this environmental crisis, residents that work in agriculture also plan to rebuild Puerto Rico’s food ecosystem. The New York Times revealed that 80 percent of the country’s “crop value” was demolished by Hurricane Maria. The storm has been deemed “one of the costliest storms to hit the island’s agriculture industry,” said Carlos Flores Ortega, secretary of the Department of Agriculture.