Puerto Rico is a U.S. Commonwealth comprised of 143 islands, cays, islets, and atolls. Of the 143 locations, only 3 islands are inhabited: the mainland (which is often just referenced as Puerto Rico), Culebra, and Vieques. In order to properly analyze, the mainland will serve as the focal point for an examination of environmental and social injustices. Puerto Rico is a racially mixed but ethnically homogenous territory, with the majority of the commonwealth below the poverty level. Education levels slightly vary, however, can be understood as consistent throughout the island’s 78 municipalities. Water dischargers, locations in which both treated and untreated wastewater is released into local water sources, are found across the island with no specific clustering. Because of the island’s homogeneity in poverty, education, and minority status, I will examine not the specific location of the water dischargers but the quantity in which they exist on the island and their effects on both environmental and social circumstances. Despite EPA regulations on how water discharging should occur, Puerto Rico’s drinking water has failed to be properly treated nor evaluated, causing 97- 99.5% of the drinking water to be contaminated (NRDC). Current contamination includes toxins such as heavy metals, bacterial pathogens, and synthetic and volatile organic contaminants (NRDC). Toxin presence in local waterways has harmed aquatic life and cause public health issues, ranging from developmental issues, kidney and liver damage, and various cancers. While no one specific area of the island is disproportionately impacted by wastewater, due to the homogenous ethnic minority status and poverty level of Puerto Rico, toxin release from discharge sites can be understood as an unjust sustainability as the United States fails to equally enforce EPA regulations that ensure potable water to the same level upheld in the states.
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