It has been almost one year since Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Puerto Rico, yet the storm is still making waves.
It was revealed on Tuesday that 20,000 pallets of bottled water brought in by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) for the relief effort went unused. The water is still sitting on an unused airport runway in the city of Ceiba. Covered with a blue tarp, the bottled water has sat for months while survivors have been forced to collect spring water from the nearby mountains for use in bathing, cooking, and more.
It is unknown why the supplies were not used. Officials speculate that it was poor communication between federal and local government agencies. Jeff Byard, FEMA Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery, said that although his organization handles getting the supplies to the areas in need, it is up to the local authorities to distribute the necessities as they see fit.
As the new administrator of Puerto Rico’s General Services Administration, Ottmar Chavez said that although the island knew it had an extra 20,000 pallets of water last May, too many complaints about the quality of the water prompted officials to stop with the distribution plans. Chavez reported that 700 pallets of bottled water were distributed but that residents complained of a bad smell and foul state. He said that his state agency has been in contact with FEMA about the issue and plans to return the water back to the federal relief organization so that they can dispose of it as they see fit.
Hurricane Maria barreled into Puerto Rico in late September of 2017 as a category four storm, knocking out power to nearly the entire island and causing mass flooding and destruction of property. Although early death tolls were said to be under 100 victims, recent revisions of that number demonstrate that almost 3,000 died as a result of the powerful hurricane.