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San Juan, P.R. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have partnered with other federal agencies and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER) to develop an infographic guide, with a primary goal of educating municipalities about the need to incorporate solid waste and disaster debris management into the next revisions of their hazard mitigation plans. EPA and FEMA are collaborating with PRDNER, which has the lead for solid waste management, to support Puerto Rico municipalities through the challenges they are facing when it comes to solid waste and disaster debris management in Puerto Rico. By developing educational materials and providing technical support, the agencies aim to build capacity related to solid waste and disaster debris management.
The infographic also highlights possible funding sources that could help stabilize community lifelines after emergencies through mitigation strategies related to solid waste management. In order to streamline access to these federal funds for solid waste management activities, municipalities need to include solid waste management assets and strategies in their local hazard mitigation plans.
“There are important considerations as municipalities embark in reconstruction and recovery projects. FEMA’s Interagency Recovery Coordination (IRC) has been vital in capacity-building to support municipalities in partnerships with other federal agencies,” said FEMA Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator for Puerto Rico, José G. Baquero.
“Municipal governments play a critical role in managing solid waste across Puerto Rico, so it’s vital that they have the tools and knowledge needed to reduce pollution and protect public health and the environment,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator, Walter Mugdan. “This new guide and subsequent educational materials and events will help provide solutions to municipal solid waste challenges in Puerto Rico while mitigating risks associated with disasters.”
“The challenge of managing, recycling and disposing of solid waste in Puerto Rico is a comprehensive issue that requires the diligent attention of the Government of Puerto Rico. The collaboration with EPA, FEMA, and other federal and local agencies is extremely important, as this allows us to reach our goals to manage solid waste in a sustainable way. For that reason, it is critical that municipalities integrate sustainable material management into their solid waste and disaster debris management plans” said DNER Secretary, Rafael Machargo. “In addition, the development of these initiatives provides municipalities with a list of options for local and federal sources of funding to address these tasks and efforts. The information included in the infographic will provide municipalities and the governmental agencies with the best alternatives to manage and meet the challenge of proper management of solid waste in Puerto Rico.”
Strong and resilient solid waste management and recycling infrastructure are necessary to mitigate possible hazards resulting from debris and municipal solid waste after disasters. Hurricane María generated roughly 11.6 million cubic yards of debris in Puerto Rico, posing a significant challenge to the island’s recovery. The historic amount of storm-related waste was also an opportunity to address waste management and recycling infrastructure shortfalls to mitigate similar hazards from future disasters. Through the cooperation of EPA, DNER and other federal agencies and FEMA’s leadership, municipalities and prospective grantees can capitalize on funding opportunities to bring sustainability to communities through long-term solid waste and disaster debris investments.
In April 2021, FEMA announced the approval of about $7 million to repair damage caused by Hurricane Maria at several landfills and recycling centers around the island. After Hurricane Maria in 2017, a large amount of federal financial support became available for municipalities through funding sources such as Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) and Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Disaster Assistance Grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA). However, establishing a financial strategy to repair and improve solid waste management infrastructure and mitigate risk resulting from disaster debris presents a challenge for many municipalities. Understanding these challenges, FEMA’s Interagency Recovery Coordination (IRC) group, consisting of several federal agencies, continues its commitment to building capacity for municipalities and grantees to capitalize on disaster-related funding opportunities that will help bring sustainability to communities through long-term investments in solid waste management.
As part of the outreach efforts, EPA is partnering with the Puerto Rico League of Cities (Liga de Ciudades) to host a session during their virtual conference in Spanish that will highlight the infographic guide and strategies to support the development and financing of solid waste and recycling projects. This virtual session is scheduled to be held on September 22, 2021 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. For more information on the conference and to register, visit: https://events.zoom.us/ev/AOmvJWSMOYfaSN990ZLn6ZXkQsoPtjt3cLse9uYvNvE7YcXoRKywjbOcEurPHnGcsgYtmX8?lmt=1630457698000.
The infographic guide is available on EPA’s website at: https://www.epa.gov/pr.
The infographic can also be accessed directly on the DNER website in English and in Spanish.
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