Despite Donald Trump’s rosy assurances that Puerto Rico is an island in recovery following the devastation brought by Hurricane Maria, the federal Environmental Protection Agency painted an alarmingly different picture this week.
According to an EPA release on Wednesday:
There are reports of residents obtaining, or trying to obtain, drinking water from wells at hazardous waste “Superfund” sites in Puerto Rico. EPA advises against tampering with sealed and locked wells or drinking from these wells, as it may be dangerous to people’s health.
There are 18 Superfund sites across Puerto Rico, with some dating as far back as 1983.
In addition to the contaminated sites that some Puerto Ricans have reportedly resorted to using as a water source, the EPA also warned that raw sewage “is expected to continue” being released into local waterways for the time being.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should not use the water from rivers, streams and coastal water to drink, bathe, wash, or to cook with unless first boiling this water for a minimum of one minute,” the EPA said. “If boiling the water is not possible, water may be disinfected with bleach.”
Just 64% of Puerto Rico has access to clean drinking water—a number that drops into the low 30s in various regions on the island. In Guaynabo, the city in which President Trump infamously tossed paper towels to crowds of Puerto Ricans desperate for aid and supplies, residents report having no access to clean drinking water or electricity more than a week after the president’s visit.
In spite of these catastrophic conditions, President Trump is now threatening to abandon the bulk of federal assistance to the island, tweeting on Thursday:
While the president hasn’t set an official timetable for recalling those working on the front lines in Puerto Rico, the message seems clear: Let them eat cake. Or, in this case, drink toxic water.