October 26, 2017

Warren, Duckworth Lead Senators in Pressing Trump Administration to Boost Disaster Relief Efforts on Puerto Rican Islands of Vieques and Culebra

Senators Request Deployment of EPA Personnel to Secure Vieques Superfund Site

Text of the letter available here (PDF)

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) led a group of seven senators to urge the Trump Administration to prioritize hurricane relief efforts on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra and called on the White House to swiftly secure the Superfund site on Vieques.

Both islands' drinking water and food are at an exceptionally high risk of contamination due to their proximity to a Superfund site, the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Area.  Citing the concerns of local residents that contamination associated with this site has been linked to heightened rates of cancer, and the fact that rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease on the islands are also elevated, the senators asked the President to make deploying staff from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Superfund site a top priority to ensure the safety of the islands' residents.

Because "Vieques is isolated, communication has generally been limited since the hurricanes, and the shortage of water was reported to be especially acute on the island...  We urge you to make monitoring and securing the Vieques site a priority for the duration of recovery," the senators wrote.

The letter was also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

In the weeks since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Senator Warren has:

  • Urged the Department of Education to use its discretion to help college students and student loan borrowers displaced or otherwise unable to continue their education in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  
  • Participated in a FEMA briefing on the status of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Led a coalition of senators in a letter to President Trump, urging him to step up disaster recovery efforts on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra.
  • Pressed President Trump to take eight immediate, specific actions in response to the crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Urged HHS to provide additional resources and better coordinate efforts to combat the growing public health crisis on the ground.
  • Called on the President to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to more swiftly respond to the disaster.
  • Written to Republican leadership requesting that Congress be allowed to promptly take up legislation to provide the necessary aid to the U.S. citizens living on the islands.  
  • Asked President Trump to waive the local cost-sharing requirement for the hurricane response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and for the federal government to fully cover recovery expenses, noting the challenging fiscal situation and extensive damage in both jurisdictions in calling for the waiver