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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

NPP leaders demand action in Salinas over threat to aquifer

Salinas Mayor Karilyn Bonilla Colón, at left, seen here with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón as they view damage inflicted by Hurricane Fiona in the southern coastal municipality.

By The Star Staff

Given the demands of citizens in Salinas this past weekend denouncing the lack of action by Mayor Karilyn Bonilla Colón to stop environmental crimes in the southern coastal municipality, the New Progressive Party (NPP) minority leader in the island House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nuñez, along with the former House Speaker José Aponte Hernández, charged inaction on the part of the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.

The NPP leaders also called for an investigation into the protesters’ allegations that they described as the illegal construction of a gun target range over the southern aquifer.

“The Legislative Assembly initiated an investigation into illegal construction in the Las Mareas area, within the Bahía de Jobos Estuarine and Research Reserve in Salinas. Several public and on-site hearings were held in the House of Representatives in April and May, yet nothing has happened,” Méndez Nuñez said. “Meanwhile, the Senate announced a similar process and to this day there are no results there either. There is no action on this issue that is so important for the residents of that area, as well as surrounding areas.”

This past weekend a group of citizens painted the street that runs in front of City Hall in Salinas as a sign of protest against what they charged is Bonilla’s lack of action to stop ‘environmental crimes’ in the municipality, including against the southern aquifer, among other natural assets.

There are currently several investigative resolutions in the Legislature calling for investigations into the construction of the firing range; however, not a single public hearing has yet been held.

The message, painted white on the street, read “Karilyn Environmental Killer.”

The southern aquifer is a network of drinking water wells that extends from the municipality of Patillas to Ponce. In the case of Salinas, its aquifer begins in the Río Grande de Patillas and culminates in the Nigua River in Salinas. The aquifer occupies a geographic area of around 62 square miles.

The demonstrators also allege that they have not had communication with the mayor, who is affiliated with the Popular Democratic Party, since June.

Aponte Hernández stressed that the “legislative investigation on environmental issues is in the same place as that of Mayagüez, nowhere.”

“This is an important issue for not only Salinas, but for all of Puerto Rico,” he said. “There is official documentation that officials, including the mayor, of the Municipality of Salinas knew about these environmental crimes since at least 2013, so the claim of citizens is justified, and even more so when they have no communication with the mayor.”

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