Making a Visible Difference in Communities: Puerto Rico
Caño Martin Peña, PR
Martin Pena Channel is a 3.5-mile-long tidal channel in the San Juan Bay National Estuary. Over time, the channel has become clogged with sediment and debris, threatening the health and livelihood of more than 25,000 residents in the urban area of San Juan. The families living along the channel face serious economic disadvantages, including:
- Poor housing quality.
- High rates of acute and chronic disease.
- Unsanitary and unsafe environmental conditions, as residents are exposed to contaminated water with sewage and sediments.
A local organization, ENLACE, worked with the community to prepare redevelopment and land use plans. EPA worked with ENLACE to engage the various federal, commonwealth, and local agencies, as well as not-for-profits and the private sector to tackle the various needs for these communities. Priorities included improving sanitary, stormwater, sewer and drinking water infrastructure and re-establishing the hydrologic/hydraulic connection between the San Jose Lagoon and the San Juan Bay.
The Vieques Island is located approximately 7 miles southeast of Puerto Rico’s main island and has 10,000 residents, 65 percent of whom live below the federal poverty rate. Issues with access to health care and reliable transportation make it more difficult for these residents to deal with serious health conditions. In addition, Vieques has the highest asthma rate in Puerto Rico and some of the highest electricity costs. From the 1940s until 2003, the Navy administered the Navy Training Facilities on Vieques.
In 2005, EPA added these facilities to the Superfund NPL. EPA worked with the community to address priorities that include energy efficiency, improving surface water quality by reducing raw sewage discharges from septic tanks and improper infrastructure, improving communication and public involvement in the Vieques Superfund site, and investing in outreach on asthma and integrated pest management to address local public health concerns.