Desperate Puerto Ricans Are Drinking Water From Hazardous Waste Sites
The ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee called for an investigation into the availability of potable water in Puerto Rico following reports Friday that residents are scrounging for water from hazardous waste sites.
After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed residents were trying to access water from three Superfund sites, and following a CNN story Friday featuring Puerto Ricans taking water from a fourth site, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote a letter to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke asking if she knew about the situation and calling the reports "beyond disturbing."
Food, water, electricity and medical care is still scarce three weeks after Hurricane Maria blew through the island, and more than one-third of residents do not have a safe, available source of drinking water. While 85 percent of the island still remains without electricity, Governor Ricardo Rosselló said Sunday he hopes that power will be almost totally restored by mid-December.
As reported by The Verge:
"The Environmental Protection Agency received reports that people were trying to access water at toxic Superfund sites, according to a news release issued on Wednesday. These sites are at Caguas, San German, and Dorado, an agency spokesperson clarified in an email. The EPA advised people against tampering with or drinking from sealed and locked wells. But without access to safe water, people are forced to make the terrible choice of drinking from a risky source, or nothing at all.
The agency investigated the three sites that were reported, plus two additional ones in Cabo Rojo and Maunabo, an EPA spokesperson said. Although they're scattered across the island, all are groundwater sources contaminated with industrial solvents used for metal degreasing and dry cleaning. Exposure to these solvents can have dangerous health effects, such as harming the liver and increasing cancer risk. But, dehydration is dangerous too."
For a deeper dive:
DHS letter: CNN, The Hill. Water scarcity: CNN, NPR. EPA: The Verge. Aid efforts: LA Times, InsideClimate News. Electricity: CNN, New York Daily News. Commentary: Washington Post, Jennifer Sciubba and Jeremy Youde analysis
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Gloria Oladipo
In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.
Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria was likely responsible for more than 300 elephant deaths in Botswana this year, the country's wildlife department announced on Monday.
How Did Cyanobacteria Poison the Elephants?<p>Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Some cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins.</p><p>The cyanobacteria "was growing in pans" or watering holes, the principal veterinary officer of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben, told reporters.</p><p>Reuben said the deaths had "stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of pans."</p><p>"However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating," added Reuben.</p><p>Similar elephant deaths have also been recorded in neighboring Zimbabwe.</p>
Climate Change to Blame?<p>Not all cyanobacteria are toxic but scientists say varieties dangerous to humans and animals are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.</p><p>Southern Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p>
Elephant Paradise?<p>Africa's overall elephant population is declining due to poaching. But Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent's elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.</p><p>Botswana's government said it was continuing studies into the occurrence of the deadly bacteria. In the winter, elephants hydrate themselves mainly by eating roots and bark, especially of the baobab tree.</p>
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By Alexandra Villarreal
As West coast wildfires color the skies dystopian red and orange and an aggressive hurricane season batters the U.S. Gulf coast, college students are demanding their schools take bold action to address the climate crisis.
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The National Hurricane Center has run out of names for tropical storms this year and has now moved on to the Greek alphabet during an extremely active hurricane season. Late Monday night, Tropical Storm Beta became the ninth named storm to make landfall. That's the first time so many named storms have made landfall since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson was president, according to NBC News.
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