Among all the humanitarian crises plaguing Puerto Rico is now unsafe drinking water. According to a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), nearly all of the tap water available on the island violates federal safety standards.
While municipal water systems on the island aren't tested regularly, those that were contain harmful bacteria or other contaminants. More than 2.4 million people in the U.S. territory drink water from these systems, which aren't tested for lead.
As a response to the report, NRDC is asking federal, commonwealth and local authorities to invest in Puerto Rico’s water infrastructure and update testing.
NPR reports that the Caribbean island’s Aqueduct and Sewer Authority holds about $5 billion of Puerto Rico’s $73 billion public debt, and that the agency is struggling to provide services.
Next week, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain will oversee a hearing to restructure that debt, deciding how the country's assets will be distributed among bondholders.
Already, 179 public schools will close, saving the island $7 million but starving its youth from education, and proposals have been made to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the University of Puerto Rico, the island’s main public university system. The latter has been met with mass protests, a student strike and faculty resignation.