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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor: Southern Aquifer water quality monitoring should continue, but toxicity levels do not exceed EPA standards

The AES-PR coal plant in Guayama

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said on Tuesday that it is necessary to continue monitoring the water quality of the Southern Aquifer, which, according to the Chemists Association of Puerto Rico (CQPR by its Spanish initials), contains toxic substances that may be related to the activity of Applied Energy Services-Puerto Rico’s (AES-PR) coal-powered plant in Guayama.

“I welcome the fact that these studies are carried out, that the aquifer water quality in that area is monitored,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. Of course, I realized from the study that the toxic substances they found do not exceed the parameters established by the federal environmental agency, the EPA. But the important thing is to continue doing the studies and monitoring because obviously if they exceed those levels, we must take action immediately.”

The AES plant has an expiration date because, by law, by the end of 2027, the coal generation that occurs in that plant must cease, Pierluisi said.

At the request of the communities in the southern region of Puerto Rico, the CQPR studied the drinking water supplying homes in Guayama and Salinas. The study revealed the presence of heavy, toxic, and carcinogenic metals in the drinking water of the areas affected by the dumping of coal ash on lands in the Southern Aquifer zone. However, the levels are below the maximum limits established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Since it started burning coal in 2002, critics have said, the AES-PR coal plant in Guayama has failed to contain its coal ash, contaminating the air, soil and water.

The study found some 16 metals in waters tested in houses in Guayama and Salinas between March 2021 and August 2023. They included arsenic, copper, lead and uranium, which the critics say are associated with the ash produced by AES-PR.

AES-PR indicated that the EPA’s sampling plan, which ended in September 2023 with the sampling of 30 wells, showed that “there were no exceedances of drinking water standards.”

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