The Federal Emergency Management Agency has obligated more than $365 million for permanent and emergency work on 182 projects to repair and upgrade potable water and sewer systems and other water control facilities across Puerto Rico, it announced.
More than half of the funds are for permanent work projects.
“Our investment in the island’s water systems and community aqueducts is an essential element of recovery. We continue obligating funds every day and remain focused on helping the municipalities, communities and residents recover,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Alex Amparo.
Recently, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority was awarded more than $1.7 million to remove and replace a 363,000-gallon ground water storage tank in the Buena Vista Arriba community in Humacao. This award, which will benefit more than 1,600 families, is in addition to a previous award of $265,000 for a temporary water pump to supply potable water to this community.
“The federal obligations we have received through FEMA so far are a valuable contribution to the restoration and resilience of our water and sewer system infrastructure,” said PRASA Executive President Doriel Pagán-Crespo.
“This economic injection benefits the municipality of Humacao, specifically, several sectors that have a need for potable water service,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ottmar Chávez, executive director of the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency, known as COR3, said, “The investment in our potable water systems is important within the development and reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico.”
“As these funds continue to arrive, the island will begin to see and also participate in this revitalization process, which continues at a steady pace,” he said. “The restoration of PRASA’s facilities will result in a resilient and sustainable system for this and future generations.”
Economic injection to municipalities for water system repairs
The municipality of Villalba received an obligation of more than $718,000 for sediment excavation and removal in a retention basin necessary for floodwater control, located behind Alturas del Alba in Barrio Villalba Arriba.
Another $38,000 in federal funding was approved to repair water pump systems in the Cubones and La Sierrita sectors, which includes replacing water tanks.
“We have worked hard together with FEMA and COR3 for the approval of several projects that are vital for our people,” said Villalba Mayor Luis Javier Hernández-Ortiz.
“In the particular case of the Sierrita de Caonillas sector, we received reimbursement for the work done to put its communal aqueduct system into operation and in Cubones, we will receive the resources to operate the system that will provide potable water to its community,” he said.
“There’s no higher priority for us than for our people to have a service as essential as water. We continue working hard to help our residents get back on their feet after Hurricane María,” he said.
More than $32,000 was obligated to the municipality of Yauco for architectural and engineering design costs to address damage to a drainage channel in Sector Cambalache in Barrio Jacanas.
The funds will be used to perform a technical evaluation of the damage to facilitate removal of accumulated soil and vegetative material in the channel bed and to mitigate levee erosion in the drainage system.
Funds for community aqueducts
So far, more than 100 community aqueducts across the island have received project obligations. In Barranquitas, the Comunidad Doña Mayo in Barrio Quebrada Grande was awarded more than $645,000 to repair storm-related damage to their water storage tank and water distribution system. Some 500 residents will directly benefit from this project obligation, the federal agency said.
“These obligations will help us develop our potable water system more efficiently, more than 100 families will benefit from these improvements. Among our goals are to innovate toward a dependable water system while serving as a model for other communities,” said Héctor Martínez, president of Comunidad Doña Mayo.
With an obligation of roughly $43,000, the Acueducto Rural Casa de Piedra located in Barrio Cañaboncito in Caguas will repair and renovate the community’s drinking water aqueduct system that serves about 500 town residents.
Repairs include site work near the well and upgrades to the water storage tank, emergency power generator, power control building and repairs to the access road.
“A great number of people in our community are elderly. These obligations will help us improve our aqueduct system so that more than 400 families can benefit from potable water service,” said Eladio Margolla, administrator of Acueducto Rural Casa de Piedra.
“It’s necessary to have this system in optimal condition, now more than ever when good hygiene and hand washing is so important. One of our priorities is to provide maintenance to the water pumps and repave the roads because it is difficult to reach this facility,” he said.