The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Tuesday it has granted more than $1.6 million to the University of Puerto Rico to cut diesel pollution from the Port of San Juan, and provide training and technical support to reduce pollution and conserve energy and water in the communities of Juan Asencio in Aguas Buenas and Añasco.
“At a time when resources are very tight, it is important that EPA support efforts to protect people’s health and protect valuable natural resources in Puerto Rico,” said Carmen Guerrero-Pérez, director of the EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.
“These grants will help make the Port of San Juan cleaner, help businesses in Añasco reduce pollution, and help Juan Asencio in Aguas Buenas more effectively manage its drinking water system,” she said.
Of the award, the UPR must use $1.2 million to replace 11 old heavy-duty trucks that operate in the Port of San Juan and to put pollution controls on 24 others. The Puerto Rico Truckers Association will serve as a liaison between the truckers and the University of Puerto Rico.
The project is expected to reduce 309 tons of nitrogen oxide, 151.6 tons of carbon monoxide, 22 tons of fine particles, and 32.9 tons of hydrocarbon pollution. These pollutants are linked to serious health problems, including asthma, lung, and heart disease.
In addition, the UPR will provide training for diesel vehicle owners in Puerto Rico and to the public to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of diesel emissions and of the negative effects of vehicle idling, the EPA said.
The EPA set standards for heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses reducing their harmful pollution by 90 percent starting in model year 2007. However, heavy-duty diesel engines last a long time and many old diesel engines are still in use. These old engines produce large amounts of pollutants from tailpipes.
The EPA awards grants to local governments and organizations to help pay for retrofitting or replacing some of the older diesel engines still on the road.
Under its pollution prevention program, the EPA has awarded two grants, totaling $448,665, to the UPR in Mayagüez and the UPR’s Resource Center for Science and Engineering to fund energy and water conservation and pollution prevention projects.
The EPA granted $283,709 to the UPR-Mayagüez to reach out to businesses in the coastal municipality of Añasco and assist them in cutting pollution and energy and water usage. The project includes in-person and online training on water conservation, energy efficiency, and stormwater pollution prevention.
The project will target restaurants, beauty salons and auto body shops and will be focusing on pollutants, such as heavy metals, that are identified in a stormwater management plan for Añasco that the EPA developed.
The online training developed by the UPR-Mayagüez under this grant will be applicable to municipalities throughout Puerto Rico.
The EPA also bestowed a $164,956 grant to the UPR’s Resource Center for Science and Engineering to provide pollution prevention technical assistance to the community of Juan Asencio in Aguas Buenas — which is not served by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA), and must manage, treat and distribute its drinking water.
The Resource Center for Science and Engineering will provide technical assistance to help the community run the system more effectively and efficiently and will use this work as a case study to develop best management practices that will be shared with other communities throughout Puerto Rico that are not served by PRASA.