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FEMA grants $40M to PRASA for infrastructure repairs

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded more than $40 million to the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (PRASA) to repair infrastructure and replace equipment damaged by Hurricane Maria. The efforts are aimed at providing water management and services for several communities on the island.

“These renovations will greatly improve the quality of life and health of many communities,” said José Baquero, the disaster recovery coordinator for Puerto Rico at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Municipalities will be able to prevent or reduce sewage overflows along their roads and PRASA will have the resources to ensure that drinking water meets local and federal standards.”

Baquero coordinates the development and implementation of economically viable, sustainable and resilient recovery solutions with the Puerto Rico Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3) and the Government of Puerto Rico on response and recovery operations following the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

FEMA allocated more than $37 million to repair a trunk sewer that originates in Isabela, passes through Aguadilla, Moca and Aguada, and reaches Rincón. The Isabela-Aguada sanitary trunk sewer, which provides wastewater services to more than 18,000 residents, is approximately 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) long, with pipes ranging from 21 to 54 inches in diameter.

The project will be carried out with a non-invasive technology known as Cured-in-Place Pipe (CIPP), which consists of covering the inside of the pipe with a polyester or fiberglass lining. 

“It is a method that does not require excavation, which minimizes the possible impact on traffic due to these works and extends its useful life to about 50 years,” said PRASA Executive President Doriel Pagán.

PRASA has previously used CIPP technology in Guayama, Ponce, Carolina and Loíza.

Improved testing
Additionally, PRASA’s Caguas Central Laboratory received more than $3 million to replace various analysis and testing equipment. This facility is the main water testing plant on the island and conducts more than 200,000 sampling tests each year for PRASA’s 1.4 million customers.

“Continuous sampling allows us to calibrate the plant’s operation and thus be able to confirm compliance with all applicable federal and state drinking water laws and regulations,” Pagán said.

The equipment to be replaced includes an “incubator, laboratory freezers, centrifuges and environmental chambers, which are needed to analyze drinking water and sewage samples to validate the compliance of each treatment plant.

This equipment benefits PRASA’s operation because it allows it to perform and expand the number of water quality tests performed at the public corporation, which minimizes the need to resort to private laboratories.

 “We are already in the process of purchasing, installing and calibrating the specialized water quality analysis equipment,” Pagán added.

The funding is part of the more than $33.6 million that the agency has granted PRASA for the Central Laboratory, whose construction is in its final phase. For this project, which is being developed in Caguas, COR3 has reimbursed more than $20.6 million.

“The PRASA team that is leading the reconstruction and modernization of the aqueduct system is doing an excellent job, making way for the reconstruction of several of its facilities with FEMA funds,” said COR3 Executive Director Manuel Laboy.

“Many of these works have been carried out through the Working Capital Advance (WCA) pilot program, through which PRASA has received $241.1 million,” Laboy added. “Of this, more than $10 million corresponds to six permanent works for which the public corporation has requested the second WCA advance for a total of 50 percent of the funds allocated by the federal agency for these projects.”

To date, FEMA has awarded nearly $31.5 billion for about 10,900 projects to address Puerto Rico’s recovery, including more than $3.6 billion to PRASA through FEMA’s Accelerated Award Strategy (FAASt) for repairing water distribution and treatment facilities across the island.

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