• The San Juan Daily Star

Legislators urge action on solid waste emergency

Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez, right, and Rep. Juan José Santiago Nieves are calling for action to address a lack of transparency and deficiencies in solid waste management at the municipal level. (Photo by Tammy Olivencia)

By John McPhaul

Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez and Rep. Juan José Santiago Nieves made an urgent call Thursday to address the worrying situation faced by municipalities regarding lack of transparency and deficiencies in solid waste management.

“The commitment of this House of Representatives is to transform the Municipal Code so that it is a more transparent one without unjustified exceptions, such as the case of contracting solid waste management without holding a public bid,” Hernández Montañez said. “To these ends, we filed Resolution 6, whose investigative work on part of the Municipal Autonomy Committee is well advanced.”

Through the measure, filed last Jan. 4, an investigation was undertaken on the problem of solid waste management in municipalities and its impact on municipal coffers, as well as to examine possible alternatives for addressing this situation.

“The main intention of the referred measure is to promote a constructive dialogue between all sectors, in order to face, with new perspectives, the situation with the management of garbage and solid waste in the [towns], since it was turning into a real health crisis,” the House speaker added.

Given recent events and criminal accusations involving certain municipal executives, Hernández Montañez announced that this month the House of Representatives will be working on a plan to address the problem as an emergency. Workshops will be held that will include, without any limitation to the environmental sector, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Office of the Comptroller, the Department of Justice, the Government Ethics Office, landfill administrators, municipal administrators of jurisdictions where landfills are located, and owners of private landfills, among others.

Santiago Nieves said meanwhile that “the investigation the committee is carrying out has been consistent and comprehensive, taking into account that we are dealing with a complex problem.”

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