Several weeks ago a coalition of Puerto Rican residents who have come together under the name “Puerto Rico Limpio” reached out to me about their struggles with several landfills that were environmental hazards to a number of their communities.
The group members had heard that GreenLatinos was effective in tackling serious environmental issues impacting Latinos, that we had several successes at the federal level, and they wanted us to come to down to Puerto Rico and see first-hand what they continue to deal with every day.
What I heard and saw on the Island was both disheartening and alarming. Of the 27 landfills that are active on the island 22 of them, over 80% of island’s municipal solid waste landfills are out of compliance with the Island’s environmental quality regulations and EPA requirements. We toured the island and saw open pits – with no fencing or barriers to entry. We met with local residents who told us of years of violations being documented by authorities and not acted upon. We saw unlined waste dumps with toxic leachate seeping out into the ground, in one case right next to the municipality’s drinking water infrastructure.
The story in Puerto Rico is not unique- marginalized communities left vulnerable to environmental degradation and harm. What is unique is the vast scale at which these regulatory violations are occurring and the extent to which it appears that agencies at all levels have left the island’s residents at risk.
In the coming weeks, GreenLatinos will be partnering with Puerto Rico Limpio to provide our expertise and resources, and to demand action to ensure that the island’s residents are protected from further environmental injustice.