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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Lawmakers demand essential services for towns hardest hit by Fiona

House majority lawmakers who represent districts in the island’s south called for LUMA Energy and the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority to accelerate work in their towns.

By The Star Staff

A group of Popular Democratic Party legislators on Tuesday demanded results from the government of Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia so that thousands of citizens in their districts have access to essential services such as water and electricity.

Reps. Jesús Manuel Ortiz González and Héctor Ferrer Sánchez joined the demand made by representatives Jocelyn Rodríguez, Kebin Maldonado, Lydia Méndez, Ángel “Tito” Fourquet, José “Cheíto” Rivera Madera, Domingo Torres, Ramón Luis Cruz Burgos, Estrella Martínez, Luis “Narmito” Ortiz Lugo, Juan José Santiago, Aníbal Díaz, Orlando Aponte and Sol Higgins.

“It is not tolerable that excuses continue to be used to justify why entire communities in various towns struggle with the absence of vital services such as water and electricity and that there is no action in this regard,” Ortiz González and Ferrer Santiago said in a written statement. “Today, we echo the reality faced by our colleagues in their districts, as they have to deal with the frustration of thousands of citizens who still lack services and turn to them to try to find a solution.”

The two lawmakers stated that the current priority is to reestablish services. Therefore all efforts must be directed to that end, they said. For this reason, they announced that once the emergency is over, they and Ortiz Lugo, who chairs the House Committee for Emergency Preparedness, Reconstruction and Reorganization, will request information from the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) in order to investigate the Authority’s performance before, during and after the emergency.

The legislators highlighted the deficiencies in the availability of generators for the facilities (filtration plants, pumps, wells, etc.) and the status of recovery and mitigation projects, among other issues.

During the press conference, the lawmakers presented how their respective House districts are doing regarding basic needs.

“As district legislators today, we reiterate the claim we have made since day one for our people,” said the lawmakers representing the hardest-hit towns. “It is unacceptable for the government to offer unrealistic numbers to project a recovery not seen in our communities. We demand action from the government; 15 days without answers and services is unacceptable.”

The legislators’ districts include Ponce, Peñuelas, Guayanilla, Yauco, Maricao, Guánica, Lajas, Sabana Grande, San Germán, Hormigueros, Mayagüez, Jayuya, Salinas, Santa Isabel, Coamo, Adjuntas, Lares, Utuado, Naranjito, Comerío, Corozal, Barranquitas, Orocovis, Villalba, Las Piedras, Naguabo, Humacao, Juana Díaz, Guayama, Arroyo, Yabucoa, Maunabo, Patillas, San Lorenzo, and Aibonito.

Peñuelas still struggling without electricity service

Sixty percent of the families living in Peñuelas are still in the dark 15 days after Hurricane Fiona hit the island, charged the mayor of the municipality, Gregory Gonsález Souchet. He described the situation as “an outrageous one that threatens the physical and emotional health of the people.”

“It is desperate to have 60% of the town in darkness two weeks after the passage of Hurricane Fiona. Worse is to hear LUMA personnel say that they have 95% of their customers with electric power service restored when the reality in our town is otherwise,” Gonsález Souchet said. “The lives of children, young people, adults and senior citizens are in danger daily due to the lack of energy service. Once again, I ask LUMA and the agencies concerned to resolve this situation immediately.”

The situation in Peñuelas is aggravated, the mayor said, because LUMA is reluctant to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the municipal staff and the private energy consortium so that the municipality will contribute with the removal and installation of power poles, among other things.

“We are still waiting for LUMA to sign the MOU to expedite the work, and the truth is that I do not know why they refuse to sign it,” Gonsález Souchet said. “Meanwhile, the municipal brigades continue removing [debris] and cleaning the areas where the power lines and poles were damaged to facilitate LUMA’s work.”

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