The Environmental Protection Agency, in an email Thursday (Oct 12) to reporters about its relief efforts, notes that it has received reports of people trying to drink potentially unsafe Superfund water, from wells that were sealed to avoid human exposure to toxins: "There are reports of residents obtaining, or trying to obtain, drinking water from wells at hazardous waste "Superfund" sites in Puerto Rico". "Mr. President, fulfill your moral imperative towards the people of Puerto Rico".
Congressional leaders of both political parties defended the need to send resources to the USA territory, which was devastated by two hurricanes this summer.
The governor's office did not respond to queries about the total amount of aid requested, which is now equivalent to around half of Puerto Rico's debt of some US$73 billion.
Ryan says "we've got to do more to help Puerto Rico rebuild its own economy" but that the immediate humanitarian crisis must be addressed.
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Velázquez said the funds earmarked for loans to local governments would assist Puerto Rico's "liquidity crisis" and that steps must be taken to ensure that creditors are unable to access funds meant for disaster relief.
The president struck a very different tone for Texas or Florida, which he promised to stand with "EVERY SINGLE DAY" shortly after those states were wracked by hurricanes before Puerto Rico and now face long-term recovery efforts.
Rubio said it is up to the oversight board charged with resolving Puerto Rico's debt crisis to determine how to address the island's debt, noting that private debt owed to investors with legal recourse can not simply be "forgiven" by the federal government.
FEMA's focus, the official said, is to "move from the response phase to recovery", adding the recovery phase often takes years. Puerto Rico has about 24 industrial waste sites contaminated by industries including pesticides and battery recycling. Residents struggle to find clean water, hospitals are running short on medicine and commerce is slow with many businesses closed.
Last week, after visiting the island to view relief efforts, Trump had asked Congress to approve an emergency aid package of US$29 billion for Puerto Rico.
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Democrats, however, pounced on Trump's tweets.
The president added that much of the territory's problems are self made, and the "electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes".
Former Republican Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno said he was baffled by the President's tweets.
Rubio said federal responders would likely be on the island longer than during a "conventional" disaster on the mainland but agreed they would not be there forever.
"Puerto Ricans are Americans, and we don't abandon each other".
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Ryan, the House speaker, planned to visit Puerto Rico on Friday.