An estimated 20,000 pallets of water bottles have apparently just been sitting on a tarmac in Puerto Rico since after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, and no government agency has been able to answer why.
Abdiel Santana, who works for a Puerto Rico Police agency, posted photos of the pallets on a runway in Ceiba on Tuesday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency told CBS News on Wednesday that FEMA delivered the bottled water to the island but said the agency didn’t track specific shipments.
Ottmar Chávez, the administrator of General Services in Puerto Rico (ASG), told HuffPost in a news release that it requested 20,000 pallets of water bottles in May from FEMA, which had reported it had a surplus of emergency supplies. The ASG then distributed some of the water to a dozen municipalities, but the water had apparently gone bad after sitting too long in the sun and heat.
“After having delivered more than 700 pallets, ASG received several complaints about the smell and taste of the water received from FEMA,” Chávez stated in the press release.
Chávez said in his statement that the agency had “been in contact with FEMA and the Department of Health to test the water inventory received by the federal agency. We are going to return those waters to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) inventory.”
The GSA told HuffPost it did not order or obtain the water for FEMA during the Hurricane Maria aid efforts. Angelo Cruz Ramos, the mayor of Ceiba, told ABC News he wasn’t sure when the pallets of water bottles actually arrived on that tarmac.
The island’s Secretary of the Department of Public Security, Héctor M.
Pesquera, said in a statement that “the Government of Puerto Rico never received the water from FEMA for distribution during the emergency, and it was not until April 2018 that we were notified of its availability.”
None of the agencies seemed to have an answer for how long the water had been sitting on the tarmac and why it had not been distributed.
A senior FEMA official told CBS that if FEMA “put that water on that runway, there will be hell to pay .... If we did that, we’re going to ’fess up to it.”
FEMA did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.