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EPA urges preparedness in Puerto Rico as hurricane season begins

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues dedicated efforts to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands recover from 2017 Hurricanes Irma and María, the new Atlantic hurricane season kicked off on June 1.

The EPA is now reminding people, businesses and state and local governments where they can find the best information on preparedness before hurricane force winds or storm flooding may occur. 

“The EPA’s response to natural disasters is one of the most important ways that we protect human health and the environment. Even as we continue our work to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands continue to recover from Irma and María, we stand ready to assist should they be impacted by storms this hurricane season or any emergency, such as the recent and ongoing earthquakes,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez.

“The EPA’s preparedness and rapid response teams in the Caribbean and across Region 2 stand ready to engage our partners in providing the necessary support to protect public health and the environment,” he said.

The EPA believes that effective emergency response and recovery is most successful when every person, community, business leader and government official is prepared, it said.

In addition, the agency is taking this opportunity to remind facility operators of their legal obligations to prevent, minimize and report chemical releases in order to fully protect people and the environment.

The EPA is also urging those who live in hurricane-prone areas, such as the USVI and Puerto Rico, to “take proactive steps now to be prepared for hurricane season.”

The agency’s hurricane website includes information for business operators on preventing and reporting chemical releases due to severe weather. Local governments and community agencies can find suggestions for preparing and protecting water and wastewater facilities.

There is also detailed information for debris management planning, since storm debris can occur in enormous amounts that overwhelm local landfills and can also present serious dangers to human health and the environment.

To aid facilities, the agency has posted specific information about release prevention and preparedness requirements and that clarifies reporting requirements, including exemptions. Unlike some natural disasters, the onset of a hurricane is predictable and allows for early preparations to lessen its effect on a facility.

“Should hurricanes strike, the EPA plays a critical role in responding and in helping with long-term recovery. The EPA has transitioned from emergency response to long-term recovery work with the overarching goal of helping Puerto Rico and USVI communities build capacity and regain their footing,” the agency said.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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