Photo: Puerto Rico
Around 54 percent of Puerto Rico’s homes are not connected to public water mains and sewers, the dean of the School of Environmental Studies at the Universidad Metropolitana told Efe Friday.
One reason for that is a lack of urban planning, which has led to haphazard construction, Maria Ortiz said.
The impossibility of connecting with state-owned water utility AAA’s network in rural and remote areas means people must resort to constructing septic tanks.
Household waste water is treated in those tanks, though as Ortiz warns, many of them are poorly constructed and allow waste water to filter through the ground to contaminate the Caribbean island’s bodies of water and wetlands.
“Many septic tanks don’t comply with the regulations,” she said.
She also noted that in areas along the coast, the contents of septic tanks mix easily with subterranean water sources, which causes pollution with human fecal matter that ultimately reaches the coast.
“This implies a danger to health,” said Ortiz, whose institution has developed more than 45 research and educational projects to offer counseling and alternative solutions to environmental problems.
Another of the more pressing problems in Puerto Rico is the fact that 99 percent of reservoirs do not comply with official water quality standards.
There are also 270 communities that do not receive potable water from AAA, which forces the inhabitants of those areas to get their water directly from rivers and streams with little or no treatment.
Residents of those areas are exposed to outbreaks of gastroenteritis, among other health problems.